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From  the  collection  of  the 



i     a 



San  Francisco,  California 







New  York 

COPYRIGHT,    1934,   BY    JAMES    RORTY 


FOR    THE    JOHN    DAY    COMPANY,    INC. 

BY    H.    WOLFF,    NEW    YORK 

Dedicated  to  the  memory  of  Thorstein  Veblen, 
and  to  those  technicians  of  the  'word  whose 
r< 'conscientious  withdrawal  of  efficiency"  may 
yet  accomplish  that  burial  of  the  ad-man's 
pseudoculture  which  this  book  contemplates 
with  equanimity. 


JAMES  RORTY  was  born  March  30,  1890  in 
Middletown,  New  York.  He  was  educated  in 
the  public  schools,  served  an  early  journalistic 
apprenticeship  on  a  daily  newspaper  in  Middle- 
town,  and  was  graduated  from  Tufts  College. 
Mr.  Rorty  was  a  copy- writer  for  an  advertising 
agency  from  1913  to  1917,  at  which  time  he 
enlisted  as  a  stretcher  bearer  in  the  United  States 
Army  Ambulance  Service.  He  was  awarded  the 
Distinguished  Service  Cross  for  service  in  the 
Argonne  offensive. 

Since  the  war  Mr.  Rorty  has  worked  variously 
as  an  advertising  copy-writer,  publicity  man, 
newspaper  and  magazine  free  lance.  He  is  the 
author  of  two  books  of  verse,  "What  Michael 
Said  to  the  Census  Taker"  and  "Children  of 
the  Sun",  and  has  contributed  to  the  Nation, 
New  Republic,  New  Masses,  Freeman,  New 
Freeman,  and  Harpers. 



PREFACE:  /  Was  an  Ad-man  Once  3 



3  How  IT  WORKS:  The  Endless  Chain  of  Salesmanship  34 

4  PRIMROSE  CHEESE:  An  Advertising  Accouchement  45 

5  As  ADVERTISED:  The  Product  of  Advertising  6$ 


I.  The  Command  to  Buy  73 

II.  Chromium  is  More  Expensive  8 1 

III.  The  Ad -man's  Pseudoculture  104 


8  THE  THREE  GRACES  :  Advertising,  Propaganda,  Edu- 

cation 145 



10  CHAIN  Music:  The  Truth  About  the  Shavers  190 

11  BEAUTY  AND  THE  AD-MAN  201 


1 3  SCIENCE  SAYS:  Come  up  and  see  me  some  time  231 


15  PSYCHOLOGY  ASKS:  How  am  I  doing?  241 

1 6  THE  MOVIES  252 

17  RULE  BY  RADIO  265 





22  GOTTERDAMMERUNG:  Advertising  and  the  Depression  546 

23  NIRA — THE  AD-MAN  ON  THE  JOB  354 

24  ALL  FOR  PURITY  362 


26  CONCLUSION:  Problems  and  Prospects  381 



TWO  BASIC  definitions  will  perhaps  assist  the  reader  to 
understand  the  scope  and  intent  of  this  book. 

The  advertising  business  is  taken  to  mean  the  total  appara- 
tus of  newspaper  and  magazine  publishing  in  America,  plus 
radio  broadcasting,  and  with  important  qualifications  the 
movies;  plus  the  advertising  agency  structure,  car  card,  pos- 
ter, and  direct-by-mail  companies,  plus  the  services  of  supply: 
printing,  lithography,  engraving,  etc.  which  are  largely  de- 
pendent upon  the  advertising  business  for  their  existence. 

The  advertising  technique  is  taken  to  mean  the  technique 
of  manufacturing  customers  by  producing  systematized  illu- 
sions of  value  or  desirability  in  the  minds  of  the  particular 
public  at  which  the  technique  is  directed. 

The  book  is  an  attempt,  by  an  advertising  man  and  jour- 
nalist, to  tell  how  and  why  the  traditional  conception  and 
function  of  journalism  has  lapsed  in  this  country.  It  de- 
scribes the  progressive  seizure  and  use,  by  business,  of  the 
apparatus  of  social  communication  in  America.  Naturally, 
this  story  has  not  been  "covered",  has  not  been  considered  fit 
to  print,  in  any  newspaper  or  magazine  dependent  for  its 
existence  upon  advertising. 

In  attempting  to  examine  the  phenomenon  of  American 
advertising  in  the  context  of  the  culture  it  became  necessary 
to  examine  the  culture  itself  and  even  to  trace  its  economic 
and  ideological  origins.  This  enlargement  of  scope  necessitated 
a  somewhat  cursory  and  inadequate  treatment  of  many  de- 
tailed aspects  of  the  subject.  The  writer  accepted  this  limita- 
tion, feeling  that  what  was  chiefly  important  was  to  establish, 


if  possible,  the  essential  structure  and  functioning  of  the 

Since  the  book  is  presented  not  as  sociology,  but  as  journal- 
ism, the  writer  felt  free  to  use  satirical  and  even  fictional 
literary  techniques  for  whatever  they  might  yield  in  the  way 
of  understanding  and  emphasis.  The  writer  wishes  to  ac- 
knowledge gratefully  the  help  and  encouragement  he  has 
received  from  many  friends  in  and  out  of  the  advertising 
business.  The  section  on  "The  Magazines"  is  almost  wholly 
the  work  of  Winifred  Raushenbush  and  Hal  Swanson. 
Thanks  are  due  to  Professor  Robert  Lynd  for  reading  portions 
of  the  manuscript  and  for  many  stimulating  suggestions;  to 
Professor  Sidney  Hook  for  permission  to  quote  from  unpub- 
lished manuscripts;  to  F.  J.  Schlink  and  his  associates  on  the 
staff  of  Consumers'  Research  for  permission  to  use  certain 
data;  to  Stuart  Chase  for  much  useful  counsel  and  encourage- 
ment; to  Dr.  Meyer  Schapiro  for  valuable  criticisms  of  the 
manuscript  and  to  Elliot  E.  Cohen  for  help  in  revising  the 
proofs;  to  the  officials  of  the  Food  and  Drug  Administrations 
for  courteously  and  conscientiously  answering  questions. 



"I  come  to  bury  Caesar,  not  to  praise  him." 

"A  trading  on  that  range  of  human  infirmities 
that  blossoms  in  devout  observances  and  bears 
fruit  in  the  psychopathic  wards." 


"Business  succeeds  rather  better  than  the  state 
in  imposing  its  restraints  upon  individuals,  be- 
cause its  imperatives  are  disguised  as  choices." 



I  Was  an  Ad-man  Once 

IMAGINE,  if  you  can,  the  New  York  of  1913.  In  that  year  a 
young  man  just  out  of  college  was  laying  siege  to  the  city 
desks  of  the  metropolitan  papers.  He  had  good  legs,  but  his 
past  record  included  nothing  more  substantial  than  having 
been  fired  out  of  college,  and  having  worked  before  college, 
and  during  vacations,  on  a  small-city  paper  upstate;  also  on 
a  Munsey-owned  Boston  paper.  It  was  the  last  count  that  did 
for  him.  He  couldn't  laugh  that  off  anywhere,  and  funds  were 
getting  low. 

Finally,  a  relative  got  the  young  man  a  job  as  a  copy 
writer  in  an  advertising  agency,  housed  near  the  Battery  in  an 
ancient  loft  building  which  has  since  been  torn  down.  Per- 
haps it  is  time  to  drop  the  third  person.  The  young  man  was 
myself.  I  remember  him  well,  although  at  this  distance  both 
the  person  and  his  actions  seem  a  little  unreal. 

The  young  man  didn't  know  anybody,  or  anything  much. 
At  that  time  he  hadn't  even  read  H.  G.  Wells'  Tono-Bun- 
gay.  But  he  was  full  of  fervor.  His  father  was  an  Irish 
Fenian  who  believed  to  the  end  of  his  days  that  the  world 
was  just  on  the  point  of  becoming  decent  and  sensible,  and 
the  young  man,  to  tell  the  truth,  has  had  trouble  in  over- 
coming that  paternal  misapprehension. 

In  those  days  business  had  pretty  well  beaten  the  muck- 
raking magazines  by  the  painless  process  of  seizing  them 
through  the  business  office.  But  the  old  Masses  was  going  full 


blast,  and  the  blond  beasts  of  the  New  Republic  were  about 
to  launch  their  forays  upon  the  sheepfolds  of  the  Faithful. 

The  young  man  was  a  Socialist  already,  in  sympathy  at 
least,  although  in  the  matter  of  fundamental  economics  and 
sociology  he  was  as  illiterate  as  most  of  his  contemporaries. 
He  was  literary;  that  is  to  say,  he  knew  Ibsen,  and  Haupt- 
man,  and  Shaw,  and  Jack  London,  and  Samuel  Butler — even 
a  little  Nietzsche.  Not  until  some  years  later  did  he  come  to 
know  Karl  Marx  and  Thorstein  Veblen. 

But  life  was  real  and  landladies  were  earnest.  The  young 
man  was  hungry.  He  had  a  job  now  and  he  was  taking  no 
chances.  He  was  assured  that  at  the  end  of  the  month  he 
would  be  paid  sixty  dollars  for  his  services,  in  negotiable 
currency.  It  was  up  to  him  to  earn  that  sixty  dollars.  He  was 
young  and  energetic.  During  the  economy  wave  under  which 
Mr.  Munsey  extinguished  the  Boston  Journal,  he,  a  cub  re- 
porter, had  covered  as  many  as  three  supposedly  important 
assignments  in  one  day,  being  obliged,  of  course,  to  steal  or 
fake  most  of  his  facts. 

The  young  man  was  given  his  first  advertising-copy  assign- 
ment: to  write  some  forty  advertisements  commending  a 
certain  brand  of  agricultural  machinery  about  which  he 
knew  nothing  whatever.  The  young  man  took  off  his  coat. 

I  wrote  those  forty  advertisements  in  three  days,  with  my 
eye  on  the  clock.  Three  days  is  ten  per  cent  of  thirty  days.  Ten 
per  cent  of  sixty  dollars  is  six  dollars.  Were  those  forty 
advertisements  a  big  enough  stint  to  earn  those  six  dollars? 
Trembling,  I  turned  in  my  copy  ...  it  was  enough  for  a 

The  copy  was  fully  up  to  current  standards,  too,  as  adver- 
tising copy,  although  of  course  it  went  through  endless 
meaningless  revisions.  As  news  and  information  it  didn't,  at 
the  time,  seem  to  me  to  be  worth  the  price.  I  still  don't  think 
so.  But  in  those  three  days  I  learned  all  that  any  bright  young 
man  needed  to  know  about  the  mysteries  of  advertising  copy- 


writing  in  order  to  earn,  in  1929,  not  sixty  dollars  a  month, 
but  a  hundred  and  sixty  dollars  a  week.  I  say  this  in  the  teeth 
of  the  Harvard  School  of  Business  Administration,  the  ap- 
prentice courses  of  all  the  agencies,  Dr.  John  B.  Watson,  and 
the  old  sea  lion  in  the  Aquarium  to  whom,  in  my  dazed  and 
shaken  condition,  I  turned  for  comfort  and  understanding. 

The  Aquarium  was  close  at  hand.  During  the  noon  hour 
I  would  sit  on  a  bench  in  Battery  Park,  eating  my  necessarily 
frugal  lunch  of  peanuts  and  chocolate,  and  then  spend  the 
remaining  half -hour  wandering  among  the  glass  cases  and 
peering  at  the  fishes,  who  peered  back  at  me  with  their  flat 
eyes  and  said  nothing.  Sometimes  one  of  them  would  turn 
on  his  side,  his  gills  waving  faintly.  Nothing  to  do,  nowhere 
to  go.  We  cried  our  eyes  out  over  each  other,  I  and  the  other 
poor  fishes. 

Then  I  discovered  the  sea  lion,  who  occupied  a  big  pool  in 
the  center  of  the  main  floor.  The  sea  lion,  I  soon  became 
convinced,  had  some  kind  of  an  idea.  There  was  a  slanting 
float  at  one  end  of  the  pool.  He  would  start  at  the  other  end, 
/dive,  emerge  halfway  up  the  float  with  a  tremendous  rush, 
and  whoosh!  he  would  blow  water  on  the  mob  of  children  and 
adults  who  crowded  around  the  tank.  Always  they  would 
shriek,  giggle,  and  retreat.  Then,  gradually,  they  would  come 
back;  the  sea  lion  would  then  repeat  the  performance  with 
precisely  the  same  effect. 

It  has  taken  me  years  to  understand  that  sea  lion.  I  know 
now  that  he  was  an  advertising  man.  Recently,  I  became 
acquainted  with  his  human  reincarnation,  one  of  the  ablest, 
most  philosophical,  and  best  paid  advertising  men  in  New 
York.  If  there  is  a  "science"  of  advertising,  he  has  mastered 
it.  Yet  his  formula  is  very  simple.  It  is  this:  "Figure  out  what 
they  want,  promise  'em  everything,  and  blow  hard." 

This  philosophical  ancient  is  greatly  valued  as  an  instructor 
of  the  young.  His  students  are  very  promising,  although  some 
of  them  are  not  wholly  literate.  He  is,  however,  indulgent  of 


their  cultural  limitations,  remarking  kindly:   "What  are  a 
few  split  infinitives  between  morons?" 

In  the  annex  to  the  Aquarium  where  I  served  my  adver- 
tising apprenticeship  there  were  many  mansions,  housing  as 
varied  a  collection  of  the  human  species  as  I  have  ever  encoun- 
tered together  in  one  place.  Through  a  stroke  of  luck,  the 
agency  had  started  with  a  nucleus  of  important  accounts  and 
expanded  rapidly.  Its  owner,  a  quiet  Swede  who  never,  to 
my  knowledge  while  I  was  in  his  employ,  wrote  a  single  piece 
of  advertising  copy  himself,  became  a  millionaire  in  a  few 
years.  He  was,  then,  an  economist,  a  commercial  engineer,  an 
executive  of  tremendous  driving  power?  Not  so  that  anybody 
could  notice  it.  His  success  is  quite  unexplainable  in  terms  of 
logic  or  common  sense.  I  think  he  was  just  a  "natural."  Also, 
he  played  golf  well,  but  not  too  well.  Puzzling  over  this 
phenomenon,  I  remembered  hearing  the  Socialists  tell  me  there 
is  no  sense  in  trying  to  make  sense  out  of  the  people  and 
institutions  of  our  chaotic  capitalist  civilization. 

Nevertheless,  the  boss  was  a  natural.  Either  by  shrewdness 
or  by  accident,  he  gathered  into  his  organization  a  consider- 
able number  of  able  and  interesting  people.  They  didn't 
know  much  about  advertising.  Nobody  did  in  those  days. 
Six  months  after  my  initiation,  the  company  moved  to  a 
neighboring  skyscraper,  and  the  expanded  copy  staff  soon 
numbered  eight  people.  We  all  sat  in  one  large  room.  By  right 
of  priority,  I  had  a  desk  next  the  window  where  I  could  look 
out  and  watch  the  ferry  boats  swimming  about  like  water 
beetles,  and  the  tugs  pushing  liners  out  to  sea,  as  ants  push 
big  crumbs.  They  seemed  so  earnest,  so  determined.  .  .  . 
Every  now  and  then  an  office  boy  would  stroll  by  and  deposit 
in  one  of  the  desk  baskets  a  yellow  printed  form  with  here 
and  there  a  little  typing  on  it.  The  form  called  for  one,  two, 
six  or  twelve  advertisements  about  a  certain  product,  to  fit 
specified  spaces  in  certain  scheduled  publications.  Usually  the 
form  was  destitute  of  other  information  or  instruction. 


I  think,  although  I  am  not  sure,  that  those  forms  were  the 
bequest  of  an  efficiency  expert  who  functioned  briefly  during 
the  early  months  of  my  employment.  He  was  a  tall,  gangling 
man,  with  a  high  white  brow,  a  drooping  forelock  and  a  rapt 
and  questing  eye.  He  dictated  inspirational  talks  to  his  stenog- 
rapher. While  so  engaged,  he  would  pace  up  and  down  his 
office  and  quite  literally  beat  his  breast.  In  fact,  he  had  all  the 
equipment  of  a  medicine  man  except  the  buffalo  horns  and 
the  rattlesnake  belt.  It  was  he,  I  think,  who  started  the  idea 
of  timing  and  systematizing  the  copy  production  of  the  office. 
Years  after  he  had  left,  unfortunate  copy  writers  were  still 
digging  the  splinters  of  that  system  out  of  their  pants. 

You  got  a  yellow  form,  then,  which  required  that  you 
write  so  many  pieces  of  copy  and  turn  them  in  by  a  certain 
date.  What  kind  of  copy?  The  form  was  silent.  The  headline 
goes  at  the  top,  the  slug  at  the  bottom  and  what  goes  in  be- 
tween you  rewrite  from  a  booklet  or  make  up  out  of  your 
head.  Sometimes  an  illustration  was  called  for.  In  such  cases 
you  conferred  with  the  art  director,  who  was  of  the  opinion 
that  you,  your  words,  and  especially  your  ideas  about  pictures 
were  a  damned  nuisance  and  so  informed  you. 

I  felt  it  necessary  to  resent  such  acerbities,  but  I  could 
never  do  so  with  any  great  conviction.  Privately,  I  suspected 
that  he  was  right.  Sometimes  I  was  tempted  to  put  my  hands 
on  my  hips  and  retort  stoutly,  "You're  another."  But  I  never 
did  so.  That  would  have  been  to  widen  the  field  of  discussion 
intolerably.  And  there  were  always  closing  dates  to  meet. 

Feeling  as  I  did  about  it,  it  frequently  seemed  to  me  that 
one  advertisement  would  do  exactly  as  well  as  six.  But  I 
always  wrote  six.  Anything  to  keep  busy.  There  were  never 
enough  yellow  forms. 

Sometimes,  unable  to  control  my  restlessness,  I  would 
wander  upstairs,  knock  on  the  door  of  the  account  executive's 
office,  and  ask  mildly  if  anybody  knew  anything  about  that 
product  and  what  it  was  supposed  to  be  used  for.  I  knew 


that  many  heavy  conferences  had  preceded  the  planning  of 
that  campaign.  But  the  decisions  reached  in  those  conferences 
never  seemed  to  get  typed  on  that  yellow  form.  Usually  I  got 
nothing  out  of  such  interviews  except  the  suggestion  that  I 
do  some  more  like  last  year's,  or  that  an  ad  was  an  ad,  wasn't 
it,  and  I  was  to  have  six  done  by  Friday.  Such  admonitions 
were  heartbreaking.  The  ads  were  already  done.  Nothing  to 
do  now  except  to  stew  miserably  in  the  juice  of  my  frustrated 

In  time,  merciful  nature  came  to  my  aid.  I,  who  was 
normally  facile,  as  even  a  cub  reporter  has  to  be,  found  that 
writing  even  a  six-line  tradepaper  advertisement  cost  me  in- 
tolerable effort.  My  brain  wouldn't  function.  My  fingers  were 
paralyzed.  I  was  fighting  the  cold  wind  of  absurdity  blowing 
off  the  waste  lands  of  our  American  commercial  chaos.  The 
workman  in  me  had  been  insulted.  Very  well,  then,  he  would 
strike.  I  dawdled.  I  covered  reams  of  paper  with  idiotic  pencil- 
ings.  I  missed  closing  dates  and  didn't  care.  My  fellow  copy 
writers,  suffering  the  same  tortures,  would  go  out  and  get 
drunk.  One  of  them,  in  fact,  who  had  genuine  literary  talent, 
ultimately  drank  himself  to  death. 

Since  I  was  still  a  virtuous  youth,  I  had  no  such  escapes. 
Even  my  health,  which  had  been  excellent,  was  shaken.  I 
began  mumbling  to  myself  on  the  street.  Once,  for  three 
weeks,  an  office  associate  converted  me  to  Christian  Science. 

The  Truth  and  the  Light,  he  said,  were  in  Mrs.  Eddy's 
Science  and  Health,  which  I  accordingly  undertook  to  read 
for  several  evenings.  I  do  not  think  I  ever  got  beyond  page 
38,  although  I  tried  very  hard.  The  difficulty  was  that  it 
didn't  make  sense  at  first  reading,  so  that  on  resuming  the 
book  I  was  always  obliged  to  start  over  again  from  the  begin- 
ning. It  was  like  driving  a  model  T  Ford  uphill  through  sand. 
At  the  end  of  three  weeks  I  was  utterly  exhausted,  and  sleep- 
ing soundly,  but  unable  to  bear  another  word  of  Mary  Baker 


I  cite  the  episode  merely  to  indicate  how  acute  was  my 
condition.  If  my  friend  had  been  a  Holy  Roller,  I  think  I 
would  have  rolled  for  him  cheerfully. 

The  workman  in  me  was  paralyzed.  Even  when,  outside  the 
office,  I  tried  to  write  poetry  and  plays  the  words  and  ideas 
stared  coldly  at  me  from  the  page. 

But  the  reformer  in  me  still  lived  and  was  shortly  to  have 
his  inning.  The  house  acquired  as  a  client  a  company  manu- 
facturing a  proprietary  remedy.  As  it  happened,  it  was  an 
excellent  product,  which,  minus  its  proprietary  name,  was 
much  used  and  recommended  by  the  medical  profession. 
There  was  my  chance.  I  would  make  the  advertising  of  that 
product  honest.  I  did  make  it  honest,  for  a  while.  I  had  every 
word  of  my  copy  censored  by  representative  medical  men. 
I  fought  everybody  in  the  office,  singly  and  in  groups.  I  was 
obsessed,  invincible  and  absurd. 

But  the  client  became  impatient — sales  weren't  growing 
as  fast  as  he  thought  they  should.  He  hired  as  advertising 
manager  an  experienced  and  entirely  unscrupulous  patent- 
medicine  salesman — a  leather-hided  saurian  who  scrapped  all 
my  carefully  censored  copy  and  furnished  as  a  model  for 
future  advertising  an  illiterate  screed  recommending  the  prod- 
uct, directly  or  by  implication,  as  a  cure  for  everything  from 
tuberculosis  to  athlete's  foot. 

I  threw  him  out  of  my  office.  I  rushed  over  to  the  client 
and  talked  very  crudely  to  a  very  eminent  gentleman.  Even 
that  wasn't  enough.  I  considered  blowing  the  works  to  the 
organized  medical  profession,  although  I  never  actually  did 
so.  Instead,  I  wrote  a  furious  and  entirely  unactable  play 
about  a  patent  medicine  wage-slave  who  went  straight  and 
took  a  correspondence  course  in  burglary. 

I  wasn't  fired,  although  logically  I  should  have  been.  The 
President  of  the  United  States  had  just  declared  war,  and  in 
the  confusion  I  escaped  into  the  army  as  a  buck  private.  Even 


the  war,  I  thought,  was  more  rational  than  the  advertising 
business.  I  was  wrong,  but  that  is  another  story. 

I  was  an  ad -man  once.  Indeed,  I  am,  in  a  small  way,  an 
ad -man  still,  although  I  no  longer  carry  a  spear  in  the 
monotonously  hilarious  spectacles  which  the  orthodox  priests 
continue  sweatingly  to  produce  in  the  Byzantine,  Chino- 
Spanish  and  Dada-Gothic  temples  of  advertising  which  crowd 
the  Grand  Central  district  of  New  York. 

I  still  practice,  however,  after  my  fashion.  My  motto,  "The 
Less  Advertising  the  Better,"  appeals  poignantly  to  certain 
eminent  industrialists  to  whom  I  have  talked.  My  sales  argu- 
ment goes  something  like  this: 

"Mr.  Hoffschnagel,  you  and  I  are  practical  men.  I  don't 
need  to  tell  you  that  advertising  is  not  an  end  in  itself. 
Neither  is  selling.  The  end,  Mr.  Hoffschnagel,  the  true  objec- 
tive of  the  manufacturer  and  dispenser  of  products  and 
services,  should  be  the  efficient  and  economical  delivery  to  the 
consumer  of  precisely  what  the  consumer  wants  and  needs: 
what  the  consumer  needs  to  buy,  I  repeat,  not  what  the 
manufacturer  needs  to  sell  him.  In  any  functional  relation- 
ship between  producer  and  consumer,  advertising  and  sales 
expenditures  are  just  so  much  frictional  loss;  in  the  ideal  set- 
up, which  of  course  we  can't  even  approximate  under  present 
conditions,  released  buying  energy  would  be  substituted  en- 
tirely for  the  selling  energy  which  you  now  spend  in  breaking 
down  'sales  resistance.'  My  task,  therefore,  is  to  redefine  and 
reinterpret  your  relationship  with  your  customers;  not  to  pile 
up  sales  and  advertising  expenses" — Mr.  Hoffschnagel  nods 
energetically — "but  to  cut  them.  What  do  your  customers 
want  from  you?  Service!  What  do  you  want  to  give  them? 
Service!  Not  advertising — the  less  advertising  the  better — 
that's  just  so  much  friction  and  loss.  But  service!  The  end, 
Mr.  Hoffschnagel,  the  end  is  service!" 

Mr.  Hoffschnagel  meditates,  while  as  if  unconsciously  his 
hand  strays  to  the  right-hand  drawer  of  his  desk. 


"Have  a  drink,"  says  Mr.  Hoffschnagel. 

It  is  possible  to  get  a  good  deal  of  hospitality  in  this  way, 
and  even  some  business.  Sometimes,  as  I  listen  to  myself  talk, 
I  sound  like  one  of  these  newly  spawned  capitalist  economic 
planners.  I  am  not.  I  know,  or  think  I  know,  that  the  adver- 
tising business,  with  all  of  its  wastes  and  chicaneries  intact, 
is  woven  into  the  very  fabric  of  our  competitive  economic 
system;  that  the  only  equilibrium  possible  for  such  a  system 
is  the  unstable  equilibrium  of  accelerating  change,  with  the 
ad-man's  foot  on  the  throttle,  speeding  up  consumption, 
preaching  emulative  expenditure,  "styling"  clothes,  kitchens, 
automobiles — everything,  in  the  interest  of  more  rapid  ob- 
solescence and  replacement.  Up  to  a  certain  point  it  is  possible 
to  build,  and  after  the  inevitable  crash,  to  rebuild  such  a  sys- 
tem— always  with  a  progressive  and  cumulative  intensifica- 
tion of  wastes  and  conflicts.  It  is  not  possible  to  operate  such 
a  system  sanely  and  permanently,  because  its  underlying  eco- 
nomic and  social  premises  are  obsolete  in  the  modern  world. 

If  this  is  so — even  some  advertising  men  apprehend  that  it 
may  be  so — then  it  would  be,  perhaps,  not  a  bad  idea,  if 
ad-men  removed  their  tongues  from  their  long-swollen  cheeks 
and  tried  talking  approximate  sense  for  a  change.  It  wouldn't 
do  much  if  any  immediate  good,  of  course,  but  it  might  pro- 
vide a  desirable  mental  discipline,  a  kind  of  intellectual  prep- 
aration for  the  severer  disciplines  which  the  future  may  hold 
in  store  for  the  profession. 

As  a  matter  of  fact,  the  abler  people  in  advertising  are  be- 
coming increasingly  mature,  realistic,  and  cynical.  They 
don't  believe  in  the  racket  themselves.  But  they  insist  that 
the  guinea  pigs,  not  merely  the  consumers  outside  the  office, 
but  the  minor  employees  inside  the  office,  must  believe  in  it. 
The  role  of  the  advertising  agency  guinea  pig — the  minor 
copy  writer,  layout  man,  forwarding  clerk  or  other  carrier 
of  messages  to  Garcia — is  hard  indeed.  The  outside  guinea 
pig,  the  consumer,  can't  be  fired.  But  the  inside  guinea  pig 


can  be  and  is  fired  unless  he  is  utterly  and  sincerely  credulous 
and  faithful.  A  good,  loyal  guinea  pig  is  a  pearl  without 
price  in  any  agency.  I  am  even  told  that  in  some  of  the  larger 
agencies,  eugenic  experiments  are  being  conducted  with  the 
idea  ultimately  of  breeding  advertising  guinea  pigs,  or  pearls 
— I  admit  the  metaphor  is  hopelessly  mixed — who  will  come 
into  the  world  crying  "It  Pays  To  Advertise". 

To  such  heights  of  fantasy  are  we  lifted  by  an  attempt  to 
examine  the  phenomenon  of  contemporary  advertising  in 
America.  It  is  not,  as  contemporary  liberal  historians  and 
social  critics  have  tended  to  regard  it,  a  superficial  phenom- 
enon: a  carbuncular  excrescence  of  our  acquisitive  society, 
curable  by  appropriate  reformist  treatment,  or  perhaps  by 
a  minor  operation. 

A  book  about  advertising  therefore  becomes  inevitably  a 
critique  of  the  society. 

Much  of  the  data  presented  in  this  book  I  have  gathered  in 
my  personal  experience  as  an  employee  of  various  advertising 
agencies.  If  some  of  this  material  seems  absurd,  even  incredible 
to  the  lay  reader,  I  can  only  reply,  helplessly,  that  I  did  not 
make  the  advertising  business;  nobody  made  it;  that  is  why 
it  is  so  absurd.  Whether  one  regards  the  advertising  business 
as  farce  or  as  tragedy,  one  is  convinced  that  the  play  is  badly 
made;  there  are  no  heroes  and  the  villains  have  a  way  of  turn- 
ing into  victims  under  one's  eyes;  none  of  them  is  consistently 
bad,  consistently  sad  or  even  consistently  funny. 

As  I  shall  try  to  show  in  a  later  section  entitled  "The 
Natural  History  of  Advertising,"  the  advertising  business 
just  grew.  It  is  the  economic  and  cultural  causes,  the  economic 
and  cultural  consequences  of  this  growth  that  I  shall  try  to 
describe  in  this  book. 





THE  title  of  this  chapter;  was  chosen,  not  so  much  to  parody 
the  title  of  Mr.  Bruce  Barton's  widely-read  volume  of  New 
Testament  exegesis,  as  to  suggest  that,  in  the  lack  of  serious 
critical  study,  we  really  know  very  little  about  advertising: 
how  the  phenomenon  happened  to  achieve  its  uniquely  huge 
and  grotesque  dimensions  in  America;  how  it  has  affected  our 
individual  and  social  psychology  as  a  people;  what  its  role 
is  likely  to  be  in  the  present  rapidly  changing  pattern  of  social 
and  economic  forces. 

The  advertising  business  is  quite  literally  the  business  no- 
body knows;  nobody,  including,  or  perhaps  more  especially, 
advertising  men.  As  evidence  of  this  general  ignorance,  one 
has  only  to  cite  a  few  of  the  misapprehensions  which  have 
confused  the  very  few  contemporary  economists,  sociologists 
and  publicists  who  have  attempted  to  treat  the  subject. 

Perhaps  the  chief  of  these  misapprehensions  is  that  of  re- 
garding advertising  as  merely  the  business  of  preparing  and 
placing  advertisements  in  the  various  advertising  media:  the 
daily  and  periodical  press,  the  mails,  the  radio,  motion  picture, 
car  cards,  posters,  etc.  The  error  here  is  that  of  mistaking  a 
function  of  the  thing  for  the  thing  itself.  It  would  be  much 
more  accurate  to  say  that  our  daily  and  periodical  press,  plus 
the  radio  and  other  lesser  media,  are  the  advertising  business. 
The  commercial  press  is  supported  primarily  by  advertising 
— roughly  the  ratio  as  between  advertising  income  and  sub- 


scription  and  news-stand  sales  income  averages  about  two  to 
one.  It  is  quite  natural,  therefore,  that  the  publishers  of  news- 
papers and  magazines  should  regard  their  enterprises  as  ad- 
vertising businesses.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  every  advertising 
man  knows  that  they  do  so  regard  them  and  so  conduct  them. 
These  publishers  are  business  men,  responsible  to  their  stock- 
holders, and  their  proper  and  necessary  concern  is  to  make  a 
maximum  of  profit  out  of  these  business  properties.  They  do 
this  by  using  our  major  instruments  of  social  communication, 
whose  free  and  disinterested  functioning  is  embodied  in  the 
concept  of  a  democracy,  to  serve  the  profit  interests  of  the 
advertisers  who  employ  and  pay  them.  Within  certain  limits 
they  give  their  readers  and  listeners  the  sort  of  editorial 
content  which  experience  proves  to  be  effective  in  building 
circulations  and  audiences,  these  to  be  sold  in  turn  at  so  much 
a  head  to  advertisers.  The  limits  are  that  regardless  of  the 
readers'  or  listeners'  true  interests,  nothing  can  be  given  them 
which  seriously  conflicts  with  the  profit-interests  of  the  ad- 
vertisers, or  of  the  vested  industrial  and  financial  powers 
back  of  these;  also  nothing  can  be  given  them  which  seriously 
conflicts  with  the  use  and  wont,  embodied  in  law  and  custom, 
of  the  competitive  capitalist  economy  and  culture. 

In  defining  the  advertising  business  it  must  be  remembered 
also  that  newspapers  and  magazines  use  paper  and  ink:  a  huge 
bulk  of  materials,  a  ramified  complex  of  services  by  printers, 
lithographers,  photographers,  etc.  Radio  uses  other  categories 
of  materials  and  services — the  whole  art  of  radio  was  origi- 
nally conceived  of  as  a  sales  device  to  market  radio  transmit- 
ters and  receiving  sets.  All  these  services  are  necessary  to  adver- 
tising and  advertising  is  necessary  to  them.  These  are  also  the 
advertising  business.  Surely  it  is  only  by  examining  this 
business  as  a  whole  that  we  can  expect  to  understand  anything 
about  it. 

The  second  misapprehension  is  that  invidious  moral  value 
judgments  are  useful  in  appraising  the  phenomena.  Adver- 

tising  is  merely  an  instrument  of  sales  promotion.  Good  ad- 
vertising is  efficient  advertising — advertising  which  promotes 
a  maximum  of  sales  for  a  minimum  of  expenditure.  Bad  ad- 
vertising is  inefficient  advertising,  advertising  which  accom- 
plishes its  purpose  wastefully  or  not  at  all.  All  advertising  is 
obviously  special  pleading.  Why  should  it  be  considered  perti- 
nent or  useful  to  express  surprise  and  indignation  because 
special  pleading,  whether  in  a  court  of  law,  or  in  the  public 
prints,  is  habitually  disingenuous,  and  frequently  unscrupu- 
lous and  deceptive?  Yet  liberal  social  critics,  economists  and 
sociologists,  have  wasted  much  time  complaining  that  adver- 
tising has  "elevated  mendacity  to  the  status  of  a  profession." 
The  pressure  of  competition  forces  advertisers  and  the  adver- 
tising agencies  who  serve  them  to  become  more  efficient;  to 
advertise  more  efficiently  frequently  means  to  advertise  more 
mendaciously.  Do  these  liberal  critics  want  advertising  to  be 
less  efficient?  Do  they  want  advertisers  to  observe  standards 
of  ethics,  morals  and  taste  which  would,  under  our  existing 
institutional  setup,  result  either  in  depriving  stockholders  of 
dividends,  or  in  loading  still  heavier  costs  on  the  consumer? 
There  is,  of  course,  a  third  alternative,  which  is  neither 
good  advertising  nor  bad  advertising,  but  no  advertising.  But 
that  is  outside  the  present  institutional  setup.  It  should  be  ob- 
vious that  in  the  present  (surplus  economy)  phase  of  Ameri- 
can capitalism,  advertising  is  an  industry  no  less  essential  than 
steel,  coal,  or  electric  power.  If  one  defines  advertising  as  the 
total  apparatus  of  American  publishing  and  broadcasting,  it 
is  in  fact  among  the  twelve  greatest  industries  in  the  country. 
It  is,  moreover,  one  of  the  most  strategically  placed  indus- 
tries. Realization  of  this  fact  should  restrain  us  from  loose 
talk  about  "deflating  the  advertising  business."  How  would 
one  go  about  organizing  "public  opinion"  for  such  an  enter- 
prise when  the  instruments  of  social  communication  by  which 
public  opinion  must  be  shaped  and  organized  are  themselves 
the  advertising  business? 


As  should  be  apparent  from  the  foregoing,  the  writer  has 
only  a  qualified  interest  in  "reforming"  advertising.  Obviously 
it  cannot  be  reformed  without  transforming  the  whole  in- 
stitutional context  of  our  civilization.  The  bias  of  the  writer 
is  frankly  in  favor  of  such  a  transformation.  But  the  im- 
mediate task  in  this  book  is  one  of  description  and  analysis. 
Although  advertising  is  forever  in  the  public's  eye — and  in 
its  ear  too,  now  that  we  have  radio — the  average  layman  con- 
fines himself  either  to  applauding  the  tricks  of  the  ad-man, 
or  to  railing  at  what  he  considers  to  be  more  or  less  of  a  pub- 
lic nuisance.  In  neither  case  does  he  bother  to  understand 
what  is  being  done  to  him,  who  is  doing  it,  and  why. 

The  typical  view  of  an  advertisement  is  that  it  is  a  selling 
presentation  of  a  product  or  service,  to  be  judged  as  "good" 
or  "bad"  depending  upon  whether  the  presentation  is  ac- 
curate or  inaccurate,  fair  or  deceptive.  But  to  an  advertising 
man,  this  seems  a  very  shallow  view  of  the  matter. 

Advertising  has  to  do  with  the  shaping  of  the  economic, 
social,  moral  and  ethical  patterns  of  the  community  into 
serviceable  conformity  with  the  profit-making  interests  of 
advertisers  and  of  the  advertising  business.  Advertising  thus 
becomes  a  body  of  doctrine.  Veblen  defined  advertisements 
as  "doctrinal  memoranda,"  and  the  phrase  is  none  the  less 
precise  because  of  its  content  of  irony.  It  is  particularly  ap- 
plicable to  that  steadily  increasing  proportion  of  advertising 
classified  as  "inter-industrial  advertising":  that  is  to  say,  ad- 
vertising competition  between  industries  for  the  consumer's 
dollar.  What  such  advertising  boils  down  to  is  special  plead- 
ing, directed  at  the  consumer  by  vested  property  interests, 
concerning  the  material,  moral  and  spiritual  content  of  the 
Good  Life.  In  this  special  pleading  the  editorial  contents  of 
the  daily  and  periodical  press,  and  the  sustaining  programs  of 
the  broadcasters,  are  called  upon  to  do  their  bit,  no  less  man- 
fully, though  less  directly  than  the  advertising  columns  or 
the  sponsor's  sales  talk.  Such  advertising,  as  Veblen  pointed 


out,  is  a  lineal  descendant  of  the  "Propaganda  of  the  Faith." 
It  is  a  less  unified  effort,  and  less  efficient  because  of  the  con- 
flicting pressure  groups  involved;  also  because  of  the  disrup- 
tive stresses  of  the  underlying  economic  forces  of  our  time. 
Yet  it  is  very  similar  in  purpose  and  method. 

An  important  point  which  the  writer  develops  in  detail  in 
later  chapters  is  that  advertising  is  an  effect  resulting  from 
the  unfolding  of  the  economic  processes  of  modern  capitalism, 
but  becomes  in  turn  a  cause  of  sequential  economic  and  social 
phenomena.  The  earlier  causal  chain  is  of  course  apparent. 
Mass  production  necessitated  mass  distribution  which  ne- 
cessitated mass  literacy,  mass  communication  and  mass  ad- 
vertising. But  the  achieved  result,  mass  advertising,  becomes 
in  turn  a  generating  cause  of  another  sequence.  Mass  adver- 
tising perverts  the  integrity  of  the  editor-reader  relationship 
essential  to  the  concept  of  a  democracy.  Advertising  doctrine 
— always  remembering  that  the  separation  of  the  editorial 
and  advertising  contents  of  a  modern  publication  is  for  the 
most  part  formal  rather  than  actual — is  a  doctrine  of  material 
emulation,  keeping  up  with  the  Joneses,  conspicuous  waste. 
Mass  advertising  plus,  of  course,  the  government  mail  subsidy, 
makes  possible  the  five-cent  price  for  national  weeklies,  the 
ten-  to  thirty-five-cent  price  for  national  monthlies.  Because 
of  this  low  price  and  because  of  the  large  appropriations  for 
circulation-promotion  made  possible  by  advertising  income, 
the  number  of  mass  publications  and  the  volume  of  their 
circulation  has  hugely  increased.  These  huge  circulations  are 
maintained  by  editorial  policies  dictated  by  the  requirements 
of  the  advertisers.  Such  policies  vary  widely  but  have  certain 
elements  in  common.  Articles,  fiction,  verse,  etc.,  are  con- 
ceived of  as  "entertainment."  This  means  that  controversial 
subjects  are  avoided.  The  contemporary  social  fact  is  not 
adequately  reported,  interpreted,  or  criticized;  in  fact  the 
run  of  commercial  magazines  and  newspapers  are  extraordi- 
narily empty  of  social  content.  On  the  positive  side,  their  con- 


tent,  whether  fiction,  articles  or  criticism,  is  definitely  shaped 
toward  the  promotion  and  fixation  of  mental  and  emotional 
patterns  which  predispose  the  reader  to  an  acceptance  of  the 
advertiser's  doctrinal  message. 

This  secondary  causal  chain  therefore  runs  as  follows:  Mass 
advertising  entails  the  perversion  of  the  editor-reader  rela- 
tionship; it  entails  reader-exploitation,  cultural  malnutrition 
and  stultification. 

This  situation  came  to  fruition  during  the  period  just  be- 
fore, during  and  after  the  war;  a  period  of  rapid  technical, 
economic  and  social  change  culminating  in  the  depression  of 
1929.  At  precisely  the  moment  in  our  history  when  we  needed 
a  maximum  of  open-minded  mobility  in  public  opinion,  we 
found  a  maximum  of  inertia  embodied  in  our  instruments  of 
social  communication.  Since  these  have  become  advertising 
businesses,  and  competition  is  the  life  of  advertising,  they  have 
a  vested  interest  in  maintaining  and  promoting  the  competi- 
tive acquisitive  economy  and  the  competitive  acquisitive  social 
psychology.  Both  are  essential  to  advertising,  but  both  are 
becoming  obsolete  in  the  modern  world.  In  contemporary 
sociological  writing  we  find  only  vague  and  passing  reference 
to  this  crucial  fact,  which  is  of  incalculable  influence  in  de- 
termining the  present  and  future  movement  of  social  forces 
in  America. 

In  later  chapters  the  writer  will  be  found  dealing  coinci- 
dentally  with  advertising,  propaganda  and  education.  Con- 
temporary liberal  criticism  tends  to  regard  these  as  separate 
categories,  to  be  separately  studied  and  evaluated.  But  in  the 
realm  of  contemporary  fact,  no  such  separation  exists.  All 
three  are  instruments  of  rule.  Our  ruling  class,  representing 
the  vested  interests  of  business  and  finance,  has  primary  access 
to  and  control  over  all  these  instruments.  One  supplements 
the  other  and  they  are  frequently  used  coordinately.  Liberal 
sociologists  would  attempt  to  set  up  the  concept  of  education, 
defined  as  a  disinterested  objective  effort  to  release  capacity, 


as  a  contrasting  opposite  to  propaganda  and  advertising.  In 
practice  no  such  clear  apposition  obtains,  or  can  obtain,  as  is 
in  fact  acknowledged  by  some  of  our  most  distinguished 
contemporary  educators. 

There  is  nothing  unique,  isolate  or  adventitious  about  the 
contemporary  phenomena  of  advertising.  Your  ad-man  is 
merely  the  particular  kind  of  eccentric  cog  which  the  ma- 
chinery of  a  competitive  acquisitive  society  required  at  a  par- 
ticular moment  of  its  evolution.  He  is,  on  the  average,  much 
more  intelligent  than  the  average  business  man,  much  more 
sophisticated,  even  much  more  socially  minded.  But  in  mov- 
ing day  after  day  the  little  cams  and  gears  that  he  has  to 
move,  he  inevitably  empties  himself  of  human  qualities.  His 
daily  traffic  in  half-truths  and  outright  deceptions  is  subtly 
and  cumulatively  degrading.  No  man  can  give  his  days  to 
barbarous  frivolity  and  live.  And  ad-men  don't  live.  They 
become  dull,  resigned,  hopeless.  Or  they  become  daemonic 
fantasts  and  sadists.  They  are,  in  a  sense,  the  intellectuals, 
the  male  hetserae  of  our  American  commercial  culture.  Mer- 
ciful »nature  makes  some  of  them  into  hale,  pink-fleshed, 
speech-making  morons.  Others  become  gray-faced  cynics  and 
are  burned  out  at  forty.  Some  "unlearn  hope"  and  jump  out 
of  high  windows.  Others  become  extreme  political  and  social 
radicals,  either  secretly  while  they  are  in  the  business,  or 
openly,  after  they  have  left  it. 

This,  then,  is  the  advertising  business.  The  present  volume  is 
merely  a  reconnaissance  study.  In  addition  to  wKat  is  indicated 
by  the  foregoing,  some  technical  material  is  included  on  the 
organization  and  practices  of  the  various  branches  of  the 
business.  Some  attempt  is  made  to  answer  the  questions:  how 
did  it  happen  that  America  offered  a  uniquely  favorable  cul- 
ture-bed for  the  development  of  the  phenomena  described? 
What  are  the  foreign  equivalents  of  our  American  rule-by- 
advertising?  How  will  advertising  be  affected  by  the  present 
trend  toward  state  capitalism,  organized  in  the  corporative 


forms  of  fascism,  and  how  will  the  social  inertias  nourished 
and  defended  by  advertising  condition  that  trend? 

The  writer  also  attempts  tentative  measurements  of  the 
mental  levels  of  various  sections  of  the  American  population, 
using  the  criteria  provided  by  our  mass  and  class  publications. 
Advertising  men  are  obliged  to  make  such  measurements  as 
a  part  of  their  business;  they  are  frequently  wrong,  but  since 
their  conclusions  are  the  basis  of  more  or  less  successful  busi- 
ness practice  they  are  worthy  of  consideration. 

The  one  conclusion  which  the  writer  offers  in  all  serious- 
ness is  that  the  advertising  business  is  in  fact  the  Business 
Nobody  Knows.  The  trails  marked  out  in  this  volume  are 
brief  and  crude.  It  is  hoped  that  some  of  our  contemporary 
sociologists  may  be  tempted  to  clear  them  a  little  further. 
Although,  of  course,  there  is  always  the  chance  that  the  swift 
movement  of  events  may  eliminate  or  rather  transform  that 
particular  social  dilemma,  making  all  such  studies  academic, 
even  archaic.  In  that  case  it  might  happen  that  ad-men 
would  be  preserved  chiefly  as  museum  specimens,  to  an  ap- 
preciation of  which  this  book  might  then  serve  as  a  moder- 
ately useful  guide. 

Advertising  has,  of  course,  a  very  ancient  history.  But 
since  the  modern  American  phenomenon  represents  not 
merely  a  change  in  degree  but  a  change  in  kind,  the  chrono- 
logical tracing  of  its  evolution  would  be  only  confusing.  It 
has  seemed  better  first  to  survey  the  contemporary  phenomena 
in  their  totality  and  then  present  in  a  later  chapter  the 
limited  amount  of  historical  data  that  seemed  necessary  and 




WHEN  we  come  to  describe  and  measure  the  apparatus  of 
advertising,  some  more  or  less  arbitrary  breakdown  is  neces- 
sary. Let  us  therefore  start  with  the  advertising  agency,  which 
is  the  hub  of  the  advertising  business  proper,  where  all  the 
lines  converge.  We  shall  then  draw  concentric  circles,  repre- 
senting increasingly  remote  but  genuinely  related  institutions, 
people  and  activities. 

In  Advertising  Agency  Compensation  Professor  James  A. 
Young,  of  the  University  of  Chicago,  estimates  that  in  1932 
there  were  2,000  recognized  national  and  local  advertising 
agencies  engaged  in  the  preparation  and  placing  of  newspaper, 
magazine,  direct-by-mail,  carcard,  poster,  radio  and  all  mis- 
cellaneous advertising.  These  2,000  agencies  served  16,573 
advertisers.  Advertisers  served  by  agencies  having  recognition 
by  individual  publishers  only  are  excluded  from  this  estimate. 

Prof.  Young  estimates  the  1930  volume  of  advertising 
placed  through  440  recognized  agencies  at  $600,000,000.  An 
additional  370  agencies  placed  $37,000,000  in  that  year.  The 
trend  during  the  post-war  decade  was  steadily  toward  the 
concentration  of  the  business  in  the  larger  agencies  with  a 
further  concentration  brought  about  by  mergers  of  some 
of  these  already  large  units. 

In  1930  there  were  six  agencies  doing  an  annual  business 
of  $20,000,000  or  over,  and  fourteen  with  an  annual  volume 
of  from  $5,000,000  to  $20,000,000.  A  further  indication  of 


the  trend  is  contained  in  the  figures  showing  the  advertising 
income  of  American  Magazine,  Colliers,  Saturday  Evening 
Post,  Delineator,  Good  Housekeeping,  Ladies9  Home  Journal, 
McCalls  and  Woman's  Home  Companion.  In  1922,  57.8  per 
cent  of  the  combined  advertising  income  of  these  publications 
came  from  the  ten  leading  agencies.  In  1931  this  proportion 
had  risen  to  68.3  per  cent. 

A  similar  trend  toward  concentration  in  the  sources  of 
advertising  revenue  is  apparent.  Advertisers  spending  between 
$10,000  and  $100,000  annually  dropped  from  43.8  per  cent 
of  the  total  volume  in  1921  to  21.1  per  cent  of  the  total 
volume  in  1930.  Advertisers  spending  between  $100,000  and 
$1,000,000  annually  increased  from  51.3  per  cent  of  the  total 
volume  in  1921  to  55.9  per  cent  in  1930.  Finally,  advertisers 
spending  over  a  million  a  year  increased  their  percentage  of 
the  total  volume  from  4.9  per  cent  in  1921  to  23  per  cent  in 

The  agency  employee,  whether  he  writes  advertising  copy, 
draws  advertising  pictures  or  is  concerned  with  one  of  many 
routine,  mechanical  and  clerical  processes  of  the  agency  traf- 
fic, must  be  listed  as  an  advertising  person;  he  makes  his 
living  directly  out  of  the  advertising  business. 

The  manufacturer's  or  merchant's  advertising  staff  is  also 
clearly  to  be  listed  as  a  part  of  the  personnel  of  the  advertising 

A  publisher's  representative,  or  "space  salesman",  is  also 
clearly  an  advertising  man;  so  is  the  circulation  promotion 
manager  and  his  staff — his  budget  is  an  advertising  budget. 
But  how  about  the  editorial  department  of  the  newspaper  or 
magazine?  Here  we  are  on  debatable  ground.  If  the  news- 
paper or  magazine  is  primarily  an  advertising  business,  since 
most  of  its  income  is  derived  from  advertisers,  and  all  of  its 
activities,  editorial  and  otherwise,  are  finally  evaluated  accord- 
ing to  the  degree  of  their  utility  in  making  the  publication 
an  effective  and  profitable  advertising  medium,  then  the  total 


«taff  of  the  publication  is  an  advertising  staff;  they  too  make 
their  livings  out  of  the  advertising  business. 

Without  attempting  to  settle  the  question,  let  us  first  con- 
sider certain  statistical  trends  which  show  clearly  enough  the 
progressive  transformation  of  our  daily  and  periodical  press 
into  advertising  businesses. 

In  1909,  63  per  cent  of  newspaper  income  and  5 1.6  per  cent 
of  magazine  income  was  from  advertising.  By  1929  the  pro- 
portion of  advertising  income  had  moved  sharply  upward  to 
74.1  per  cent  for  newspapers  and  63.4  per  cent  for  periodicals. 
Approximately  three-quarters  of  the  newspaper's  dollar  and 
two-thirds  of  the  periodical's  dollar  came  from  advertisers. 

To  correspond  with  this  trend  we  should  expect  to  find  a 
certain  re-orientation  of  the  function  of  the  newspaper  and 
periodical  press,  and  that  is  precisely  what  we  do  find.  The 
reader  is  asked  to  follow  a  digression  at  this  point,  since  it  is 
important  to  the  general  argument. 

Increasingly  over  the  past  thirty  years  we  find  the  news- 
paper asserting  its  freedom — in  political  terms.  Coincidentally, 
of  course,  it  has  come  more  and  more  under  the  hegemony  of 
business  exercised  through  advertising  contracts  to  be  either 
given  or  withheld.  In  1900,  732  dailies  acknowledged  them- 
selves to  be  "democratic"  and  801,  "republican."  By  1930, 
papers  labeled  "independent  democrat"  and  "independent  re- 
publican" had  increased  fivefold,  while  papers  pretending  to 
be  "independent"  politically  jumped  from  377  in  1900  to 
792  in  1930,  when  such  papers  constituted  the  largest  single 
category.  In  commenting  on  this  trend  Messrs.  Willey  and 
Rice  remark,  in  Recent  Social  Trends: 

This  increase  in  claimed  political  independence  may  indicate  that 
the  newspaper  is  becoming  less  important  as  an  adjunct  of  the 
political  party,  that  it  seeks  greater  editorial  freedom,  or  that  it 
desires  to  include  various  political  adherents  within  its  circulation 
and  advertising  clientele. 

The  italics  are  the  writer's.  What  this  statistical  trend 
would  appear  to  show,  especially  when  coupled  with  the  co- 
ordinate increase  of  the  newspaper's  dependence  upon  adver- 
tising income,  is  that  the  newspapers  have  realistically  adapted 
themselves  to  the  exigencies  of  a  changing  social  and  economic 
situation.  This  holds  almost  equally  true  of  the  periodicals. 
Politics  as  a  means  of  government  was  definitely  recessive 
during  this  period,  and  public  interest  in  politics  correspond- 
ingly declined.  The  powers  of  government  were  shifting  to 
business.  Hence  the  press  became  more  and  more  "free."  It 
freed  itself  from  involvement  with  the  nominal  rulers,  the 
political  parties,  in  order  that  it  might  be  free  to  court  the 
patronage  of  the  real  rulers,  the  vested  interests  of  business, 
industry,  finance;  in  return  for  this  patronage,  the  press  be- 
came increasingly  an  instrument  of  rule  operated  in  behalf 
of  business.  The  press,  being  itself  a  profit-motivated  business 
was  in  fact  obliged  to  achieve  this  transition;  to  orient  itself 
to  the  emerging  focus  of  power,  and  to  become  in  fact  though 
not  in  name,  an  advertising  business.  In  essence,  what  hap- 
pened was  that  both  major  political  parties  had  become,  in 
respect  to  the  class  interests  which  they  represented,  one 
party,  the  party  of  business;  the  press,  as  an  advertising 
medium,  tended  to  represent  that  party. 

Taking  1909  to  1929  as  representing  the  crucial  period  of 
this  transition  we  find  that  in  1909  the  volume  of  newspaper 
advertising  was  $149,000,000  and  of  periodical  advertising 
$54,000,000.  By  1929  the  figures  were  $792,000,000  for 
newspaper  advertising  and  $320,000,000  for  periodical  adver- 
tising. Except  for  the  movies,  the  automobile,  and  the  radio, 
no  other  major  American  industry  has  rivaled  the  swift 
expansion  of  the  advertising  business. 

We  have  then  a  combined  total  of  $1,112,000,000  as  the 
contribution  of  newspaper  and  magazine  advertisers  to  the 
advertising  "pot."  In  computing  the  total  contents  of  this 
pot  we  must  duly  add  at  least  $75,000,000  for  time  on  the 

air  bought  by  advertisers  from  commercial  broadcasters.  The 
radio,  since  all  its  income  is  derived  from  advertisers,  must 
be  rated  as  essentially  an  advertising  business.  We  must  add 
$400,000,000  for  direct-by-mail  advertising,  $75,000,000  for 
outdoor  advertising,  $20,000,000  for  street-car  advertising, 
$75,000,000  for  business  papers,  and  $25,000,000  for  pre- 
miums, programs,  directories,  etc.  The  foregoing  are  1927 
figures  cited  by  Copeland  in  Recent  Economic  Changes.  Ad- 
vertising volume  in  all  categories  went  up  in  1928  and  1929 
and  radio  volume  continued  to  go  up  during  the  first  three 
years  of  the  depression.  Also  in  these  figures  no  allowance  is 
made  for  radio  talent  bought  and  paid  for  by  the  advertiser, 
and  none  for  art  and  mechanical  costs  of  printed  advertising, 
billed  by  the  agency  to  the  advertiser  with  a  i5-per-cent  com- 
mission added.  Hence  Copeland's  grand  total  of  $1,782,- 
000,000  for  all  advertising  must  be  taken  as  a  very  conserva- 
tive estimate  of  the  peak  volume  of  the  business.  Two  billion 
would  probably  be  closer.  As  to  the  number  of  workers 
engaged  in  the  various  branches  of  the  business,  detailed 
estimates  are  difficult  to  get,  chiefly  because  of  the  confusion 
of  categories. 

The  General  Report  on  Occupations  of  the  I5th  Census 
gives  figures  of  5,453  men  and  400  women  as  the  personnel  of 
advertising  agencies,  but  under  Advertising  Agents  and  Other 
Pursuits  in  the  Trade  the  figures  are  43,364  men  and  5,656 
women.  Printing,  publishing  and  engraving  must  be  consid- 
ered as  in  large  part  services  of  supply  for  the  advertising 
business  as  above  defined,  and  the  personnel  of  these  trades, 
including  printers,  compositors,  linotypers,  typesetters,  elec- 
trotypers,  stereotypers,  lithographers  and  engravers  totals 
269,030  men  and  33,333  women.  In  1927  printing,  publish- 
ing and  allied  industries  ranked  as  the  fifth  industry  in  the 
United  States  with  a  total  volume  of  $2,094,000,000. 

The  question,  who  is  or  is  not  connected  with  the  adver- 
tising business  is  indeed  baffling.  Is  the  printer,  who  makes  all 

or  most  of  his  living  out  of  the  advertising  business,  an  adver- 
tising man?  How  about  the  engraver,  the  lithographer,  the 
matmaker,  the  makers  and  sellers  of  paper  and  ink — all  the 
hordes  of  people  who  as  producers,  service  technicians,  sales- 
men, clerks  operate  back  of  the  lines  as  advertising's  Service 
of  Supplies?  Many  of  these  people,  especially  the  salesmen, 
certainly  think  of  themselves  as  advertising  people.  They  are 
members  in  good  standing  of  Advertising  Clubs.  Toss  a 
chocolate  eclair  into  the  air  at  any  Thursday  noon  luncheon 
of  the  Advertising  Club  of  Kenosha,  Wisconsin,  or  Muncie, 
Indiana,  and  the  chances  are  three  to  one  it  will  land  on  a 
printer  or  on  an  engraver.  They  are  there  strictly  on  business, 
of  course,  and  their  dues  are  carried  as  part  of  the  firm's  over- 
head. But  how  they  believe  in  advertising! 

Spread  the  net  a  little  more  widely  and  all  kinds  of  strange 
fish  flop  and  writhe  in  the  meshes  of  advertising.  The  Alumni 
Secretary  of  dear  Old  Siwash — is  he  an  advertising  man?  No? 
Then  why  is  he  a  member  of  the  local  advertising  club?  And 
how  about  the  football  squad,  their  trainer,  coach,  waterboy, 
cheer-leaders,  etc. — are  they  advertising  men?  Well,  the  team 
advertises  the  college,  and,  by  general  agreement,  is  main- 
tained chiefly  for  that  purpose.  Why,  then,  isn't  the  personnel 
involved  an  advertising  personnel? 

Then  there  are  the  advertising  departments  of  our  numer- 
ous university-sanctioned  Schools  of  Business  Administration. 
Are  these  fellows  advertising  men  or  educators?  Dr.  Abraham 
Flexner  maintains  that  they  are  not  educators,  while  prac- 
tical agency  heads  insist  with  equal  energy  that  they  are  not 
advertising  men.  But  they  can't  belong  to  nobody  and  the 
writer's  guess  is  that  they  must,  however  reluctantly,  be 
categoried  as  part  of  the  personnel  of  the  advertising  business. 

Hastening  back  to  firm  ground,  we  can  agree  that  adver- 
tising copy-writers  employed  by  agencies  or  advertisers  are 
unmistakably  advertising  men.  So  are  the  fellows  who  sell 
space  in  publications.  But  how  about  the  staffs  of  the  various 


institutes,  bureaus,  etc.,  such  as  Good  Housekeeping  Insti- 
tute, whose  job  is  to  test  and  pass  on  the  products  and  ap- 
pliances advertised  in  the  publication?  The  raison  d'etre  of 
such  departments  is  that  they  nourish  the  confidence  of  the 
reader  and  thus  increase  the  value  of  the  publication  to  the 
advertiser.  Are  these  fellows  scientists,  engineers  or  advertis- 
ing men? 

Without  attempting  to  answer  this  embarrassing  question, 
let  us  go  across  the  hall  or  upstairs  to  the  editorial  department 
of  a  modern  publication.  The  "travel  editor"  is  busy  comput- 
ing the  current  and  prospective  lineage  bought  by  various 
steamship  and  railroad  lines.  On  the  result  of  this  computa- 
tion will  depend  whether  next  month  she  will  praise  the  joys 
of  California's  sun-kist  climate  or  the  more  de  luxe  attrac- 
tions of  the  Riviera.  Is  the  young  woman  an  editor,  a  literary 
person  or  an  advertising  woman? 

The  fiction  editor  has  on  his  desk  a  very  suitable  manu- 
script. It  has  neither  literary  nor  other  distinction,  but  the 
subject  matter  and  treatment  are  excellent  from  a  pragmatic 
point  of  view.  The  story  tells  how  a  young  man  was  nobody 
and  got  nowhere  until  he  bought  some  well-tailored  clothes; 
with  the  aid  of  these  clothes  and  other  items  of  conspicuous 
waste,  he  established  his  social  status  and  shrewdly  used  his 
newly-won  acquaintances  to  promote  his  business  career.  He 
ends  up  as  partner  in  the  firm  where  he  was  formerly  a  de- 
spised bookkeeper.  Moral:  it  pays  to  wear  smart  clothes,  even 
if  you  have  to  go  in  debt  to  buy  them.  The  story  is  in  effect  an 
excellent  institutional  advertisement  for  the  men's  clothing 
industry,  and  will  be  so  regarded  by  present  and  prospective 
clothing  advertisers.  Is  its  author  a  literary  man  or  an  adver- 
tising man?  Is  the  editor  who  chose  this  story,  for  the  reasons 
indicated  above,  an  editor  and  critic  or  an  advertising  man? 
The  story  will  be  illustrated  by  an  artist  who  specializes  in 
his  knowledge  of  styles  in  men's  clothing.  When  he  makes  his 
illustrations  he  will  have  before  him  as  "scrap"  the  latest 

catalogues  of  the  clothing  houses.  Is  he  an  artist,  an  illustrator 
or  an  advertising  man? 

It  may  seem  unkind  to  press  the  point,  but  we  have  barely 
begun  to  list  the  peripheral  personnel  of  the  advertising  busi- 
ness. The  electrician  who  repairs  the  neon  signs  on  Broadway — 
is  he  an  electrician  or  an  advertising  man?  The  truck  driver 
who  delivers  huge  rolls  of  paper  to  the  press  rooms  of  the 
newspapers — where  would  he  be,  but  for  the  advertising  busi- 
ness that  keeps  those  presses  busy  dirtying  that  paper?  And 
the  bargemen  who  floated  that  newsprint  across  the  Hudson? 
And  the  train  crew  that  freighted  it  down  from  Maine?  And 
the  loggers  in  the  Maine  woods  that  supply  the  pulp  mills? 
And  the  writers  for  the  "pulps"  who  go  to  Maine  for  their 

It  is  not  necessary  to  project  this  unbroken  continuity  into 
the  realm  of  fantasy.  Both  in  respect  to  the  number  of  per- 
sons employed  and  the  total  value  of  manufactured  products, 
advertising  is,  or  was  in  1929,  one  of  the  twelve  major  indus- 
tries of  the  country.  We  are  living  in  a  fantastic  ad-man's 
civilization,  quite  as  truly  as  we  are  living  in  what  historians 
are  pleased  to  call  a  machine  age,  and  a  very  cursory  examina- 
tion of  the  underlying  economic  trends  will  be  sufficient  to 
show  how  we  got  there. 

The  essential  dynamic  of  course  is  the  emergence  of  our 
"surplus  economy"  predicament,  generated  by  the  applica- 
tion of  our  highly  developed  technology  to  production  for 
profit.  Advertising  played  a  more  or  less  functional  though 
barbaric  and  wasteful  role  during  the  whole  expansionist  era 
of  American  capitalism.  The  obsolescence,  the  reductio  ad  ab- 
surdum  of  advertising  is  betrayed  by  the  exaggerations,  the 
grotesqueries,  which  accompanied  its  period  of  greatest  ex- 
pansion during  the  postwar  decade.  Like  many  another  social 
institution,  it  flowered  most  impressively  at  the  very  moment 
when  its  roots  had  been  cut  by  the  shift  of  the  underlying 
economic  forces. 


Between  1870  and  1930  several  millions  of  people  were 
squeezed  out  of  production.  Where  did  they  go?  The  statis- 
tical evidence  is  plain.  In  1870  about  75  per  cent  of  the  gain- 
fully employed  people  of  the  United  States  were  engaged  in 
the  production  of  physical  goods  in  agriculture,  mining,  man- 
ufacture and  construction.  In  1930  only  about  50  per  cent 
of  the  labor  supply  was  so  required.  In  1870,  ten  per  cent  of 
the  employed  population  was  engaged  in  transportation  and 
distribution.  In  1930,  20  per  cent  was  engaged  in  transporta- 
tion and  distribution.  What  caused  this  shift  was  chiefly  the 
increase  in  man-hour  productivity  made  possible  by  improve- 
ments in  machine  technology  and  in  the  technique  of  man- 
agement. The  chapter  on  "Trends  in  Economic  Organization" 
by  Edwin  F.  Gay  and  Leo  Wolman  in  Recent  Social  Trends 
documents  this  increase  as  follows: 

The  combined  physical  production  of  agriculture  and  of  the 
manufacturing,  mining  and  construction  industries  increased  34 
per  cent  from  1922  to  1929.  .  .  .  The  advance  in  output  was 
steady  throughout  the  period  and  even  in  the  recession  years,  1924 
and  1927,  the  decline  was  surprisingly  small.  Much  more  impor- 
tant, however,  is  the  comparison  between  the  rate  of  increase  in 
physical  output  in  the  prewar  and  postwar  periods.  Per  capita  out- 
put, reflecting  retardation  in  the  rate  of  population  growth,  as 
well  as  the  rise  in  production,  advanced  twice  as  fast  in  the  later 
years  as  in  the  earlier,  as  is  indicated  by  the  average  annual  rate  of 

Volume  of  Per  capita 

Period  production  Population  production 

per  cent  per  cent  per  cent 

1901-1913  +3'1  H"2'1  H"1-1 

1922-1929  +3.8  +1.4  +2.4 

Although  real  wage  levels  rose  slightly  during  this  period 
they  did  not  rise  proportionately  to  the  increase  in  man-hour 
productivity,  the  increase  in  profits,  the  increase  in  plant  in- 


vestment,  and  the  increase  in  capital  claims  upon  the  product 
of  industry.  The  result  of  these  conflicting  trends  was  to 
place  an  increasing  burden  upon  the  machinery  of  selling. 
This  is  reflected  in  the  rising  curve  of  sales  overhead,  the 
increase  in  small  loan  credit  and  installment  selling  and  the 
meteoric  rise  of  advertising  expenditure  during  the  post-war 
period.  According  to  the  estimate  of  Robert  Lynd  in  Recent 
Social  Trends  the  total  volume  of  retail  installment  sales  in 
1910  was  probably  under  a  billion  dollars.  By  1929  it  had 
increased  to  seven  billion  dollars. 

Undoubtedly  this  six-billion-dollar  shot  in  the  arm  post- 
poned the  crisis,  intensified  its  severity  and  contributed  im- 
portantly to  the  Happy  Days  of  advertising  during  the  New 
Era.  After  the  crash  it  was  of  course  the  ad-men  who  were 
urged  to  put  Humpty-Dumpty  back  on  the  wall.  They  tried 
manfully,  but  since  it  is  impossible  to  advertise  a  defunct 
buying  power  back  into  existence,  they  didn't  succeed.  And 
now,  after  four  years  of  depression  it  would  appear  that  the 
ad-man  has  learned  nothing  and  forgotten  nothing. 

That  two-billion-dollar  advertising  budget  is  a  lot  of 
money.  In  1929  it  represented  about  two  per  cent  of  the 
national  income  for  that  year,  or  $15  per  capita.  It  might 
well  be  alleged  that  the  bill  was  high,  would  have  been  high 
even  for  a  competently  administered  service  of  information. 
And,  as  already  indicated,  advertising  is  scarcely  that.  What 
that  two  billion  represented,  what  the  present  billion  and  a 
half  advertising  volume  represents,  is  in  considerable  part  the 
tax  which  business  levies  on  the  consumer  to  support  the 
machinery  of  its  super-government — the  daily  and  periodical 
press,  the  radio,  the  apparatus  of  advertising  as  we  have 
described  it.  By  this  super-government  the  economic,  social, 
ethical  and  cultural  patterns  of  the  population  are  shaped 
and  controlled  into  serviceable  conformity  to  the  profit  - 
motivated  interests  of  business. 

Our  notoriously  extravagant  official  government  is  really 


much  more  modest,  considering  that  it  gives  us  in  return 
such  tangible  values  as  roads,  sewers,  water,  schools,  police 
and  fire  departments,  and  such  grandiose  luxuries  as  the 
army  and  navy.  The  combined  tax  bill  of  the  nation,  Federal, 
State,  and  local,  amounted  to  only  $10,077,000,000  in  1930 
or  roughly  about  $75  per  capita. 

It  will  be  argued,  of  course,  that  even  if  advertising  is 
thrown  out  of  court  as  a  service  of  information,  since  that  is 
neither  its  intent  nor  its  effect,  nevertheless  this  two-billion- 
dollar  industry  does  net  us  something.  But  for  advertising, 
we  should  not  be  able  to  enjoy  the  radio  free,  or  read  the 
Saturday  Evening  Post  at  five  cents  a  copy,  or  Mr.  Hearst's 
American  Weekly,  which  is  thrown  in  free  with  his  Sunday 
newspapers.  In  other  words,  it  will  be  argued  that  advertising 
is  justifiable  as  an  indirect  subsidy  of  our  daily  and  periodical 
press  and  the  radio;  that  for  this  two  billion  dollars,  which  has 
to  be  charged  ultimately  to  the  consumer,  we  get  a  tremen- 
dous quantity  of  news,  information,  criticism,  culture,  pretty 
pictures,  education  and  entertainment.  We  do,  indeed,  and 
as  taxpayers  we  value  this  contribution  to  our  welfare  so 
highly  that  our  Post  Office  Department  also  heavily  sub- 
sidizes our  daily  and  periodical  press.  Also  we  pay  the  Federal 
Radio  Commission's  annual  million-dollar  budget,  consumed 
chiefly  in  adjusting  commercial  dog-fights  over  wave  lengths. 

But  the  actual  quality  and  usefulness  of  what  we  get  is 
another  matter.  In  exchange  for  these  official  and  unof- 
ficial subsidies  we  get  a  daily  and  periodical  press  which  has 
practically  ceased  to  function  as  a  creative  instrument  of 
democratic  government:  which  does,  however,  function  ef- 
fectively as  an  instrument  of  obscuration,  suppression  and 
cultural  stultification,  used  by  business  in  behalf  of  business; 
which  levels  all  cultural  values  to  the  common  denominator 
of  emulative  acquisition  and  social  snobbism,  which  draws  its 
daily  and  weekly  millions  to  feast  on  the  still-born  work  of 
hamstrung  reporters,  escape- formula  fictioneers,  and  slick- 

empty  artists;  which,  having  stupefied  its  readers  with  this 
sour-sweet  stew  of  nothingness,  can  be  counted  on  to  be 
faithful  to  them  in  all  issues  which  don't  particularly  matter 
and  to  betray  them  systematically  and  thoroughly  whenever 
their  interests  run  counter  to  the  vested  interests  of  business. 

In  this  indictment  it  is  not  denied  that  we  have  in 
America  many  honest  newspapers  and  honest  magazines, 
honest  editors,  honest  reporters  and  honest  advertising  men. 
They  are  honest  and  blameless  within  the  limits  of  the  pattern 
prescribed  for  them  by  the  economic  determinants  of  the  in- 
stitutions which  they  serve.  Some  of  them  even  struggle  at 
great  peril  and  sacrifice  to  break  through  and  transcend  these 
limits.  It  is  inevitable  that  they  should  do  so,  since  not  only 
their  readers  but  themselves  are  violated  by  the  compulsions 
of  the  system  in  which  both  are  caught. 

But  the  system  itself  is  substantially  as  described.  The 
American  apparatus  of  advertising  is  something  unique  in 
history  and  unique  in  the  modern  world;  unique,  fantastic 
and  fragile.  One  needs  but  little  knowledge  of  history,  or  of 
the  movement  of  contemporary  economic  and  social  forces, 
to  know  that  it  can't  last.  It  is  like  a  grotesque,  smirking 
gargoyle  set  at  the  very  top  of  America's  sky-scraping  ad- 
venture in  acquisition  ad  infinitum.  The  tower  is  tottering, 
but  it  probably  will  be  some  time  before  it  falls.  And  so  long 
as  the  tower  stands  the  gargoyle  will  remain  there  to  mock  us. 

The  gargoyle's  mouth  is  a  loud  speaker,  powered  by  the 
vested  interest  of  a  two-billion-dollar  industry,  and  back  of 
that  the  vested  interests  of  business  as  a  whole,  of  industry, 
of  finance.  It  is  never  silent,  it  drowns  out  all  other  voices, 
and  it  suffers  no  rebuke,  for  is  it  not  the  Voice  of  America? 
That  is  its  claim  and  to  a  degree  it  is  a  just  claim.  For  at  least 
two  generations  of  Americans — the  generations  that  grew  up 
during  the  war  and  after — have  listened  to  that  voice  as  to 
an  oracle.  It  has  taught  them  how  to  live,  what  things  to  be 
afraid  of,  what  to  be  proud  of,  how  to  be  beautiful,  how  to 


be  loved,  how  to  be  envied,  how  to  be  successful.  In  the  most 
tactful  manner,  and  without  offending  either  the  law  or  the 
moralities,  it  has  discussed  the  most  intimate  facts  of  life.  It 
has  counselled  with  equal  gravity  the  virtue  of  thrift  and  the 
virtue  of  spending.  It  has  uttered  the  most  beautiful  senti- 
ments concerning  the  American  Home,  the  Glory  of  Mother- 
hood, the  little  rosebud  fingers  that  clutch  at  our  heartstrings, 
the  many  things  that  must  be  done,  and  the  many,  many 
things  that  must  be  bought,  so  that  the  little  ones  may  have 
their  chance.  It  has  spoken,  too,  of  the  mystery  of  death,  and 
the  conspicuous  reverence  to  be  duly  bought  and  paid  for 
when  Father  passes  away. 

So  that  today,  when  one  hears  a  good  American  speak,  it 
is  almost  like  listening  to  the  Oracle  herself.  One  hears  the 
same  rasping,  over-amplified,  whisky-contralto  voice,  ex- 
pressing the  same  ideas,  declaring  allegiance  to  the  same  values. 

So  that  when  somebody  like  the  writer  rises  to  say  that  the 
Oracle  is  a  cheat  and  a  lie:  that  he  himself  was  the  oracle,  for 
it  was  he  who  cooed  and  cajoled  and  bellowed  into  the  micro- 
phone off  stage;  that  he  did  it  for  money  and  that  all  the 
other  priests  of  the  Advertising  Oracle  were  and  are  similarly 
motivated:  that  the  Gargoyle-oracle  never  under  any  cir- 
cumstances tells  the  truth,  the  whole  truth  and  nothing  but 
the  truth,  for  the  truth  is  not  in  her:  that  she  corrupts  every- 
thing she  touches — art,  letters,  science,  workmanship,  love, 
honor,  manhood.  .  .  . 

Why,  then,  your  American  is  not  in  the  least  abashed.  He 
knows  the  answer.  It  was  pretty  smart,  wasn't  it?  It  certainly 
does  pay  to  advertise!  You  know,  I've  always  thought  I'd 
like  to  write  advertisements!  How  does  one  get  into  the  Ad- 
vertising Business? 




The  Endless  Chain  of  Salesmanship 

THE  apparatus  of  advertising,  conceived  of  as  the  total  ap- 
paratus of  daily  and  periodical  publishing,  the  radio,  and,  in 
somewhat  different  quality  and  degree,  the  movie  and  formal 
education,  is  ramified  interlocking  and  collusive,  but  not 
unified.  This  distinction  must  be  kept  carefully  in  mind. 
Most  of  the  residual  and  fortuitous  mercies  and  benefits  that 
the  public  at  large  derives  from  the  system  are  traceable  to 
the  fact  that  the  apparatus  of  advertising  is  not  unified;  it 
exhibits  all  the  typical  conflicts  of  competitive  business  under 
capitalism  plus  certain  strains  and  stresses  peculiar  to  itself. 

With  the  system  operating  at  the  theoretical  maximum  of 
its  efficiency,  the  sucker,  that  is  to  say  the  consumer,  would 
never  get  a  break.  In  practice,  of  course,  he  gets  a  good  many 
breaks:  a  percentage  of  excellent  and  reasonably  priced  prod- 
ucts, a  somewhat  higher  percentage  of  unbiased  news,  a  still 
higher  percentage  of  good  entertainment  both  on  the  air  and 
in  the  daily  and  periodical  press.  He  even  gets  a  modicum  of 
genuine  and  salutary  education — more,  or  less,  depending  on 
his  ability  to  separate  the  wheat  from  the  chaff. 

No  system  is  perfect  and  the  apparatus  of  advertising  suf- 
fers not  merely  from  human  frailty  and  fallibility  but  from 
the  lag,  leak,  and  friction  inherent  in  its  design. 

The  apparatus  of  advertising  is  designed  to  sell  products 
for  the  advertiser,  and  to  condition  the  reflexes  of  the  indi- 
vidual and  group  mind  favorably  with  respect  to  the  interests 


of  the  advertiser.  The  desired  end  result  of  the  operation  of 
the  apparatus  is  a  maximum  of  profitable  sales  in  the  mass  or 
class  market  at  which  the  advertising  effort  is  directed. 

But  the  apparatus  itself  is  made  up  of  a  series  of  selling 
operations  as  between  the  constituent  parts  of  the  system. 
Each  of  these  parts  is  manned  by  rugged  individuals,  all  bar- 
gaining sharply,  not  merely  for  their  respective  organizations 
but  for  themselves.  In  attempting  to  trace  this  endless  chain 
of  selling  one  wonders  where  to  begin.  Perhaps  the  advertising 
agency  is  as  good  a  starting  point  as  any. 


The  advertising  agent  was  originally  a  space  broker  dealing 
in  the  white  space  that  newspapers  and  periodicals  had  for 
sale.  He  bought  space  wholesale  from  the  publishers  as  cheaply 
as  possible  and  retailed  it  for  as  much  as  he  could  get  from 
advertisers.  In  the  early  days  he  frequently  made  a  handsome 
profit — so  handsome  that  the  more  powerful  publishers  at- 
tempted to  stabilize  the  system  by  appointing  recognized 
agents  and  granting  them  a  commission  on  such  space  as  they 
sold  to  advertisers.  The  amount  of  the  commission  varied. 
For  the  compensation  they  delivered  a  service  consisting  of 
selling,  credit  and  collection.  The  advertiser  planned  and 
wrote  his  own  advertisements  and  had  them  set  up  and 
plated;  he  did  his  own  research,  merchandising,  and  so  forth. 

But  more  and  more  the  agent  tended  to  take  over  these 
functions.  He  dealt  with  many  advertisers  and  hence  was  in 
an  excellent  position  to  become  a  clearing  house  of  experience. 
From  a  seller  of  white  space  he  became  a  producer  of  adver- 
tising. In  a  comparatively  short  period  of  years  the  larger 
national  advertisers  were  placing  their  advertising  through 
agents  whose  functions  were  the  following:  planning  and 
preparing  the  advertisement  in  consultation  with  the  sales  or 
advertising  manager  of  the  advertiser;  attending  to  all  de- 


tails  of  art  purchase,  mechanical  production,  etc.;  selection 
of  publication  media  in  which  the  advertising  campaign 
would  appear;  checking  the  insertions  in  these  media.  "Re- 
search," "Merchandizing,"  etc.,  were  later  functions  of  the 
agency,  which  in  the  larger  agencies  today  are  handled  by 
well-established  departments. 

The  advertising  agency  is  thus  in  the  somewhat  ambiguous 
position  of  being  responsible  to  the  advertiser  whom  he  is 
serving  but  being  paid  by  the  advertising,  publication  or 
other  advertising  medium,  his  commission  being  based  on  the 
volume  of  the  advertiser's  expenditure.  Objection  to  this 
commission  method  of  agency  compensation  has  been  chronic 
for  years.  There  are  today  a  few  relatively  small  agencies 
that  operate  on  a  service  fee  basis.  But  the  commission  method 
of  compensation  has  persisted  and  is  a  factor  in  the  endless 
chain  of  selling  that  links  the  whole  advertising  apparatus. 

Before  the  agent  is  entitled  to  receive  commissions  from 
the  various  advertising  media — magazines,  newspapers,  radio 
broadcasters,  carcard  and  outdoor  advertising  companies — 
he  must  first  be  "recognized."  To  secure  recognition  he  there- 
fore presents  to  each  of  these  media  groups,  which  maintain 
appropriate  trade  committees  for  this  purpose,  evidence  that 
he  is  financially  responsible  and  controls  the  placing  of  a  cer- 
tain minimum  of  advertising  business.  The  first  selling  job 
is  therefore  that  of  the  agent  in  "selling"  his  competence  and 
responsibility  to  the  organized  media. 

When  recognition  is  once  granted,  however,  the  agent 
steps  into  the  buyer's  position  in  respect  to  the  media.  His 
duty  is  then  to  his  clients,  the  advertisers.  In  return  for  the 
commission  paid  by  the  media  which  has  been  more  or  less 
stabilized  at  1 5  per  cent  less  a  two  per  cent  discount  for  cash, 
which  is  passed  on  to  the  client,  the  agent  is  expected  to  pre- 
pare effective  advertising,  properly  co-ordinated  with  manu- 
facturing and  sales  tactics,  and  place  it  in  the  media  most 
effective  for  the  purpose. 

Walk  into  the  lobby  of  any  large  advertising  agency  and 
you  will  see  about  a  dozen  bright  young  men  with  brief  cases 
waiting  to  see  agency  account  executives  or  media  department 
heads.  They  are  space  salesmen.  The  brief  cases  contain  lav- 
ishly printed  and  illustrated  promotion  booklets  which  serve 
as  reference  texts  for  the  salesmen.  Many  thousands  of  dol- 
lars go  into  the  compilation  of  the  data  printed  in  one  of 
these  booklets.  In  it  the  publication's  advertising  manager 
proves  that  his  "book"  has  so  many  subscribers  and  is  bought 
at  newsstands  by  so  many  people,  as  attested  by  the  impartial 
Audit  Bureau  of  Circulations.  These  readers  are  concentrated 
in  such  and  such  areas.  They  represent  an  average  annual  unit 
buying  power  of  so  much  as  evidenced  by  the  property 
ownership  of  houses,  automobiles,  etc.,  etc.  Their  devotion  to 
the  publication  is  evidenced  by  such  and  such  a  turnover  of 
subscribers  and  such  and  such  a  curve  of  circulation  increase. 
Their  confidence  and  response  to  advertising  placed  in  the 
publication  is  evidenced  by  the  success  of  advertisers  A,  B 
and  C,  whose  campaigns  last  year  proved  that  advertising  in 
the  Universal  Weekly  brings  inquiries  for  only  so  much  per 
inquiry;  furthermore  such  and  such  a  percentage  of  these 
inquiries  were  materialized  into  sales.  The  Universal  Weekly 
also  exercises  an  important  influence  upon  dealers.  The  broad- 
side reproducing  his  campaign  with  which  advertiser  A  cir- 
cularized the  trade,  resulted  in  stocking  so  and  so  many  new 
dealers.  The  advertising  department  of  the  Universal  Weekly 
also  co-operates  earnestly  with  advertisers;  in  fact  staff  rep- 
resentatives of  the  publication  delivered  so  and  so  many  of 
these  broadsides,  and  are  even  responsible  for  the  addition 
to  the  advertiser's  list  of  so  and  so  many  new  outlets. 

The  editorial  department  of  the  Universal  Weekly  is  also 
warmly  co-operative.  During  the  year  1932  the  Universal 
Weekly  applied  the  editorial  pulmotor  to  its  readers'  flagging 
will-to-buy  with  measurable  success.  Note  also  the  "construc- 
tive" quality  of  the  articles  printed  in  the  Universal  Weekly, 


that  it  gives  also  abundant  quality  in  its  fiction — did  it  not 
pay  Pete  Muldoon  the  highest  price  ever  paid  a  fictioneer  for 
a  serial? 

These  promotion  booklets  constitute  an  important  and 
greatly  neglected  source  of  economic  and  sociological  data. 
Moreover,  some  of  them  are  honest  from  start  to  finish.  They 
had  better  be,  on  the  whole.  The  agency's  space  buyer  is 
hardboiled.  He  sees  all  the  promotion  booklets.  Moreover,  he 
has  access  to  the  advertising  and  sales  records  of  a  variety  of 
clients.  He  can  and  does  construct  his  own  private  pie  charts; 
he  can  and  occasionally  does  send  his  own  crew  of  college- 
bred  doorbell  ringers  into  the  field  to  find  out  what  sort  of 
people  read  what.  On  the  basis  of  this  calculus  he  says  yes 
or  no  to  the  publisher's  representative.  .  .  .  Well,  not  quite 
that.  The  publisher's  representative  has  also  seen  the  adver- 
tiser's advertising  manager.  And  the  publisher  himself  played 
golf  last  week  with  the  Chairman  of  the  Advertiser's  Board. 
And  the  wife  of  the  publisher's  advertising  manager  gave  a 
tea  yesterday  to  the  wife  of  the  agency's  vice-president  who 
would  like  to  get  into  the  Colony  Club.  Also,  the  space  sales- 
man and  the  agency's  space  buyer  are  both  enthusiastic  mem- 
bers of  the  Zeta  chapter  of  Epsilon  Sigma  Rho — remember 
that  time  we  smuggled  Prexy's  prize  pig  into  the  choir  loft? 

There  are  certain  other  considerations.  Agencies  select 
media  subject  to  the  approval  of  the  client.  But  publishers' 
representatives  are  also  in  a  position  to  recommend  agencies 
to  manufacturers  who  are  about  to  make  their  debut  as  ad- 
vertisers or  to  regular  advertisers  who  are  thinking  of  chang- 
ing agencies.  Also  agency  space  buyers  sometimes  change 
jobs.  They  may  go  to  other  agencies  or  become  space  sales- 
men themselves.  And  space  salesmen  frequently  graduate 
into  agency  account  executives. 

What  with  one  thing  and  another  the  agency  space  buyer 
is  likely  to  say  yes  and  no — until  all  the  data  of  his  calculus 
is  in  hand. 


It  is  necessary  to  sketch  this  background  of  intrigue  be- 
cause it  is  unquestionably  a  factor  in  the  traffic  of  advertising 
where  the  stakes  are  large  and  a  decision  one  way  or  another 
can  readily  be  justified  on  entirely  ethical  grounds.  It  is  a 
minor  factor.  Curiously  enough  there  is  probably  less  of  it  in 
the  advertising  business  than  in  most  other  businesses;  much 
less,  for  instance  than  in  the  movie  industry,  or  in  the  field 
of  investment  banking.  It  is  indeed  puzzling  that  the  ad-man,, 
whose  stock-in-trade  in  his  relations  with  the  public,  is  pretty 
much  bunk,  should  exhibit,  in  the  internal  traffic  of  the  busi- 
ness, a  relatively  high  standard  of  personal  integrity.  Yet  the 
writer  is  convinced  that  this  is  so,  and  in  later  chapters  will 
offer  tentative  explanations  why  this  should  be  so. 

The  agency-publication-advertiser  relation  is  of  course 
only  one  loop  of  the  endless  chain  of  selling.  To  complete  the 
circuit  in  detail  would  scarcely  be  useful  at  this  point.  The 
major  sequences  may  be  summarized  briefly  as  follows: 


The  raw  material  of  advertising  consists  of  ink,  paper, 
paint,  photographic  materials  and  talk.  The  techniques  in- 
volved are  too  numerous  to  list,  especially  since  new  tech- 
niques are  constantly  emerging.  In  the  lobby  of  the  agency 
swapping  cigarettes  and  gossip  with  the  space  salesmen  are 
regularly  to  be  seen  the  salesmen  representing  advertising's 
services  of  supply.  They  are  all  there  in  person  or  represented 
by  their  salesmen.  The  printer,  the  lithographer,  the  photog- 
rapher, the  carcard  and  outdoor  advertising  companies,  the 
direct-by-mail  house,  which  is  a  printing  house  with  much  of 
the  production  personnel  and  equipment -of  the  agency;  the 
advertising  "novelty"  house,  a  "public  relations"  expert,  a 
couple  of  broadcasting  companies  and  three  specimens  of 
radio  talent.  Also  the  de  luxe  young  woman  who  serves  as  go- 
between  in  the  testimonial  racket;  also  half  a  dozen  people 


of  both  sexes  who  are  looking  for  jobs.  They  have  heard  that 
the  agency  has  just  captured  the  Primrose  Cheese  account. 

All  told  it  makes  quite  a  mob.  The  reception  clerk  is  either 
gray-haired  and  dignified,  or  young,  pretty  and  amiable.  She 
is  busy  continuously  on  the  telephone,  glibly  translating  the 
account  executive's  "Nothing  doing"  into  "Mr.  Blotz  is  so 
sorry.  Couldn't  you  come  tomorrow  at  about  this  time?" 
Eventually  most  of  these  salesmen  are  seen  by  somebody.  The 
agency  is  in  the  selling  business  too  and  <¥an't  afford  to  up- 
stage anybody.  While  they  are  waiting  they  improve  their 
time  by  selling  each  other.  The  printer  sells  the  direct-by-mail 
house  executive;  the  engraver  sells  the  printer;  the  lithog- 
rapher sells  the  outdoor  advertising  representative;  the  radio 
talent  sells  the  broadcaster.  Only  the  testimonial  racketeer 
remains  uninterested.  Deciding  that  there  isn't  a  profitable 
date  in  a  carload  of  these  people,  she  gives  it  up  and  goes 


It  must  be  understood  that  an  advertising  agency  is  a 
loose  aggregation  of  rugged  individuals  each  of  whom  is  very 
busy  carving  out  his  or  her  professional  career.  This  occa- 
sions more  or  less  continuous  conflict  and  confusion.  The 
technique  of  combat  is  salesmanship.  The  movement  is  the 
circular  movement  of  the  dance,  with  alternating  tempos  of 
dreamy  waltz  and  frantic  fox-trot.  There  is  much  cutting-in 
and  swapping  of  partners.  Everybody  is  busy  selling  every- 
body else;  this  entails  much  weaving  from  desk  to  desk; 
many  prolonged  luncheon  conferences;  many  convivial  mid- 
night parties  in  Bronxville,  Great  Neck  and  Montclair.  The 
mulberry  bush  around  which  this  dance  revolves  is  known 
in  the  trade  jargon  as  the  Billing,  that  is  to  say,  the  total 
volume  of  advertising  on  which  the  agency  gets  commissions. 
Everybody  knows  the  amount  of  the  commission  and  every- 


body  knows  or  can  guess  approximately  the  amount  of  the 
Billing.  Hence  everybody  is  constantly  doing  mental  cal- 
culations in  which  the  opposing  factors  are  "How  much  do  I 
do?"  and  "How  much  am  I  paid?"  The  answer  never  comes 
out  right  for  anybody.  The  copy-writer  notes  that  he  writes 
all  the  copy  on  three  accounts  the  total  annual  billing  on 
which  averages  say  a  million  dollars.  Fifteen  per  cent  of  a 
million  dollars  is  $150,000.  The  copy-writer's  salary  is  $5,000 
and  this  year  no  bonus  was  paid  at  Christmas  time.  The  dis- 
crepancy is  obvious.  The  copy-writer  considers  that  all  the 
other  processes  of  the  agency,  such  as  art  production  for  which 
a  separate  added  commission  is  charged,  media  selection, 
client  contact,  new  business  getting,  forwarding,  billing  and 
other  routine  tasks,  are  just  as  much  overhead  and  that  there 
is  too  damned  much  of  it;  also  too  damned  much  profit 
going  into  the  salaries  and  dividends  received  by  the  heads  of 
the  agency.  All  the  other  members  of  the  "creative"  staff 
entertain  similar  views  differing  only  in  the  focus  of  the 
particular  grievance;  whereas  the  lowly  clerical  and  mechan- 
ical workers  are  convinced  that  the  agency  wouldn't  get 
paid  unless  the  advertisements  got  into  the  newspapers  and 
magazines.  They  too  have  their  grievances.  The  way  out  for 
all  these  people  is  salesmanship.  Hence  everybody  sells  every- 
body else;  the  copy  writer  and  the  art  director  sell  the  ac- 
count executives  on  the  relative  importance  of  copy  versus 
art  or  art  versus  copy;  the  research  director  sends  memoranda 
up  to  the  top  pointing  out  that  it  is  impossible  to  sell  shoes 
without  an  adequate  economic  and  anatomical  study  of  feet; 
the  new-business-getter  inquires  with  some  acerbity,  who 
brought  this  account  into  the  house? 

Observing  this  disorder  in  the  ranks,  the  heads  of  the 
agency  are  puzzled  and  heartsick.  They  work  hard — yes, 
many  of  them  do  work  preposterously  hard.  Few  of  them 
make  large  fortunes  out  of  the  agency  business  directly.  They 
give  more  or  less  secure  employment  to  hundreds  of  people. 

And  in  return  they  get  an  amount  of  grouching,  chiseling 
and  intrigue  that  is  positively  appalling. 

The  dance  around  the  mulberry  bush  grows  dreamier  and 
dreamier,  or  wilder  and  wilder.  Since  the  generated  energy  is 
centrifugal  in  nature,  it  happens  at  more  or  less  regular  in- 
tervals that  one  of  the  dancers  furtively  leaves  the  floor  and 
runs  across  the  street  with  a  sprig  of  the  mulberry  bush  in 
his  teeth.  Panic  ensues.  A  chosen  few  of  the  apostate's  inti- 
mates follow  their  leader  across  the  street.  If  the  mulberry 
sprig  roots  and  flowers,  a  new  agency  is  established,  the  music 
strikes  up,  and  a  new  dance  begins  around  the  new  mulberry 

Meanwhile,  in  the  parent  agency  a  period  of  stricter  dis- 
cipline is  inaugurated.  Disaffected  staff  members  are  scared 
or  flattered  back  into  line.  New  management  devices  are  in- 
troduced, which  have  as  their  objective  an  improved  agency 
morale.  They  are  selling  devices  primarily.  The  staff  is  sold 
on  the  integrity  and  fairness  of  the  directing  heads;  they  are 
sold  on  the  honor  and  dignity  of  the  advertising  profession; 
they  are  assured  that  the  way  to  the  top  is  always  open;  that 
copy  writers,  junior  executives,  etc.,  who  work  hard  and 
keep  their  eyes  off  the  clock  will  be  given  higher  responsibili- 
ties, with  commensurate  increases  in  salary.  The  virtues  of 
the  ad-man  are  industry,  alertness  and  loyalty,  and  the  greatest 
of  these  is  loyalty.  On  the  anniversary  of  his  employment 
with  the  agency  each  employee  finds  on  his  desk  a  white 
rose.  All  are  urged  to  take  a  greater  interest  in  the  business. 
Monday  morning  staff  conferences  are  instituted.  A  frequent 
subject  of  discussion  at  such  conferences  is  the  obligation, 
falling  on  every  ad-man,  to  believe  in  what  he  is  selling.  How 
can  he  sell  the  public  until  he  has  first  sold  himself?  This 
would  seem  a  somewhat  harsh  requirement,  but  the  reader 
is  asked  to  believe  that  a  percentage  of  ad-men  fulfill  it  quite 
literally.  By  a  process  of  self -hypnosis  they  become  deliriously 


enthusiastic  about  whatever  they  are  obliged  to  sell  at  the 

Their  homes  are  museums  of  advertised  toothpastes,  soaps, 
antiseptics  and  gadgets.  From  themselves,  their  wives  and 
their  children,  they  exact  the  last  full  measure  of  devotion. 
They  are  alternately  constipated  with  new  condiments  and 
purged  with  new  laxatives,  while  their  lives  are  forever  being 
complicated  with  new  gadgets. 

Since  accounts  change  hands  frequently,  a  certain  open- 
mindedness  of  judgment,  and  a  certain  emotional  flexibility 
are  parts  of  the  necessary  equipment  of  the  ad-man.  He  must 
be  prepared  at  a  moment's  notice  to  forswear  toothpaste  A 
and  announce  undying  devotion  to  toothpaste  B;  to  rip  out 
a  whole  line  of  bathroom  equipment  and  install  a  new  line; 
to  turn  in  his  McKinley  Six  for  a  Hoover  Eight,  whether  he 
can  afford  it  or  not.  His  ability  to  do  all  these  things  without 
any  outward  evidence  of  insincerity  is  little  short  of  mirac- 

The  ad -man  is  indeed  a  kind  of  Candide.  His  world  is  the 
best  of  all  possible  worlds,  as  the  Russians  say,  every  change 
is  good,  even  for  the  worse.  For  instance,  he  may  work  for  a 
small  agency  and  passionately  proclaim  the  efficiency  of  the 
smaller  service  organization  as  against  that  of  the  half-dozen 
mammoths  of  the  business.  But  let  his  agency  be  merged  with 
one  of  these  mammoths  and  he  will  make  speech  at  the  en- 
suing convention  of  the  joined  staffs,  in  which  he  declares 
with  tears  in  his  eyes  that  this  marriage  was  made  in  heaven. 
If,  as  sometimes  happens,  the  merger  was  in  fact  a  shotgun 
marriage  consummated  more  or  less  at  the  behest  of  the 
sheriff,  his  fervor  will  be  heightened  only  by  this  circum- 
stance, which  he  will  stoutly  deny  to  all  and  sundry.  He  is 
not  consciously  lying.  He  literally  believes  what  he  is  saying. 
His  is  indeed  the  faith  that  passes  understanding. 

In  puzzling  over  such  phenomena,  it  has  occurred  to  the 
writer  that  there  is  something  feminine  about  the  makeup  of 


your  died-in-the-wool  ad-man.  This  is  probably  an  acquired 
characteristic,  a  sort  of  industrial  hazard,  or  occupational 
disease  peculiar  to  the  business.  The  point  will  become  more 
clear  when  it  is  remembered  that  the  advertising  agency  is 
the  scene  of  frequent  accouchements — this  is  indeed  the  busi- 
ness-as-usual  of  the  agency.  Your  ad-man  is  continuously 
either  enceinte  with  big  ideas,  or  nursing  their  infant  help- 
lessness. In  this  delicate  condition  he  can  scarcely  be  held 
intellectually  or  morally  responsible  for  his  opinions  and 
acts.  Behind  him  is  the  whole  pressure  of  the  capitalist  or- 
ganism, which  must  sell  or  perish. 

Hence  the  ad-man's  morning  sickness,  his  tell-tale  fits  of 
dizziness  after  lunch,  his  periods  of  lachrymose  sentimentality, 
his  sleepless  vigils  after  hours,  his  indifference  to  considerations 
of  elementary  logic — the  charming  hysteria,  in  general,  of 
his  high-strung  temperament.  Hence  his  trepidation  as  he 
approaches  the  ultimate  ordeal  to  be  described  in  the  next 
chapter — the  Presentation  to  the  Client. 




An  Advertising  Accouchement 

i .     PRELUDE 

FROM  his  window  close  to  the  top  of  one  of  the  minor  sky- 
scrapers of  the  Grand  Central  district,  Eddie  Butts,  for  two 
months  now,  has  been  watching  the  spectral  towers  of  Radio 
City  climb  into  the  western  sky. 

Eddie  Butts  sighs.  It  is  after  hours,  and  Eddie  is  tired.  The 
sigh  flies  out  the  window,  wreathes  itself  jocosely  around  the 
topmost  tower,  and  returns  as  an  ironic,  incomprehensible 
whisper  in  Eddie's  ear. 

Eddie  Butts  shakes  his  head  like  a  blind  horse  troubled  by 
flies.  He  must  get  down  to  business.  He  must  get  out  his 
work-sheet  for  the  next  day.  Eddie  turns  to  the  dictaphone. 

"Follow  Schmalz  on  XYZ  schedule  stop  Have  Chapin  phone 
Universal  on  LHJ  extension  stop  Call  up  Hank  Prentice 
stop  Ask  him  how  the  hell  he  is  stop  Follow  Chris  on  revises 
BDB  layouts  stop  Call  Gene  at  the  Club  [Gene  is  getting 
drunk  with  a  client  tonight  strictly  in  line  of  duty,  and  it  is 
standard  practice  to  wake  him  up  at  noon  of  the  next  day] 
Revise  plan  for  Primrose  Cheese  stop  Lather  Lulu  a  little 
stop  [Lulu  is  the  radio  prima  donna  who  got  miffed  at  the 
last  Cheery  Oats  broadcast]  Organize  Vita-pep  research  stop 
Follow  Mac  on  Spermentine  publicity  stop  Tell  him  to  damn 
well  watch  his  step  stop  Follow  stop  Follow  stop — err  Stop." 

A  telephone  is  ringing  persistently  at  the  other  end  of  the 


floor.  Probably  nothing  important — some  girl  friend  calling 
one  of  the  boys  in  the  checking  room.  But  you  can  never  tell. 
Eddie's  sense  of  duty  is  strong.  He  decides  not  to  take  a 

"Hello  .  .  .  Hello  .  .  .  Who?  Oh,  hello,  Bob.  This  is 
Eddie.  What's  the  matter?  Are  you  in  trouble?  .  .  .  Oh,  so 
I'm  in  trouble  am  I?  .  .  .  Go  on,  you're  drunk  .  .  .  What's 
that?  Sure,  that's  right.  We're  all  ready  to  shoot.  Old  Him- 
melschlussel  himself  will  be  on  here  from  Racine,  day  after 
tomorrow,  and  we  give  him  the  works,  see?  What?  Oh, 
swell.  Swell  slant.  Swell  art.  Thought  I  told  you  about  it. 
Cheese  and  beer,  cheese  and  cigarettes.  Cheese  for  dessert. 
The  continental  idea,  you  know.  Put  cheese  on  the  map. 
Himmelschlussel?  No,  I've  never  met  him.  What?  Who  says 
so?  Who's  Oscar?  Yes?  Well,  is  he  sure  about  that?  What? 
Say,  how  soon  can  you  get  over  here?  Sure,  bring  Oscar. 
Step  on  it.  I'll  wait  for  you." 

Eddie  Butts'  shoulders  sag  slightly  as  he  stumbles  along 
the  half-lit  corridor  back  to  his  office.  This  might  be  just  a 
space  salesman's  wise  crack.  On  the  other  hand,  it  might  be 
a  real  one — another  fire  alarm.  In  which  case — 

Eddie  went  to  the  bookcase  and  took  down  the  three 
elaborately  bound  volumes  that  represented  the  agency's  sub- 
mission on  the  Primrose  Cheese  account. 

Vol.  I.  Section  i.  Market  analysis,  plan,  and  consumer, 
copy,  (the  layouts  are  already  tacked  up  on  the  wall  in  the 
conference  room)  Section  2.  Report  of  the  domestic  science 
Bureau.  Section  3.  Merchandizing  plan,  trade  copy,  dealer 

Vol.  II.  Report  of  the  Research  department. 

Volume  III.  Media  analysis  and  estimates.  (This  is  an  over- 
size volume  composed  of  charts  and  hand-lettered  captions) 

For  the  layman,  a  word  of  explanation  is  perhaps  required 
at  this  point.  The  submission  as  listed  above  involves  an  in- 
vestment by  the  agency  of  approximately  $10,000.  It  is  a 

gambling  investment,  even  though  in  this  instance  the  client 
has  signed  a  contract  appointing  the  XYZ  company  as  his 
advertising  agent,  and  certain  frail  safeguards  to  the  agent 
are  embodied  in  this  contract.  It  is  a  gambling  investment 
because  all  this  work  has  been  done  subject  to  the  client's 
approval,  and  most  of  it  be  paid  for  only  when  and  if  the 
client  o.k's  the  campaign  and  the  advertising  begins  to  appear. 

In  some  cases  such  presentations  are  sheerly  speculative, 
since  they  are  made  before  the  agent  is  appointed,  as  a  means 
of  selling  the  client  and  securing  the  account.  Such  specula- 
tive selling  by  the  agency  is  frowned  upon  by  the  organized 
profession  and  is  prohibited  in  the  NRA  agency  code  of  fair 
competition.  There  are,  of  course,  many  ways  of  evading  this 
prohibition,  and  since  the  agency  field  is  highly  competitive, 
such  evasions  will  probably  continue,  much  as  in  the  past. 

It  may  be  asked:  why  this  extraordinary  and  costly  elab- 
orateness of  selling?  The  explanation  resides  chiefly  in  the 
commission  method  of  compensation.  To  the  client  that  15% 
commission  looks  like  a  lot  of  money — is  a  lot  of  money  when 
applied  to  a  total  annual  expenditure  by  the  client  of,  say, 
$12,000,000  for  advertising  a  single  brand  of  cigarette. 

The  economic  logic  of  the  situation  induces  two  opposing 
points  of  view.  From  the  agency's  point  of  view,  the  client 
is  the  squirming,  recalcitrant  fly  in  the  otherwise  pure  oint- 
ment of  that  15%  commission.  All  clients  are  unreasonable 
in  theory  and  frequently  so  in  fact.  In  justice  to  the  agency 
it  should  be  said  that  the  majority  of  reputable  agencies  strive 
earnestly  to  earn  their  commissions.  They  work  hard  and 
even  in  the  best  of  all  possible  worlds  they  make  big  money 
only  by  a  lucky  break,  to  be  discounted  by  a  succession  of 
bad  breaks  next  year.  But  the  client  either  doesn't  know  this 
or  doesn't  care.  On  the  principle  of  caveat  emptor,  the  client 
has  to  be  shown. 

To  put  it  crudely,  the  agent,  from  the  advertiser's  point 
of  view,  is  a  bunk-shooter,  a  hi-jacker,  with  whom  he  is 


obliged  to  deal  merely  because  he  has  to  pay  that  15%  com- 
mission anyway.  In  its  relations  to  clients,  the  agency  may  be 
neither  a  bunk-shooter  nor  a  hi- j acker,  but  it  is  guilty  as 
charged  until  it  proves  itself  innocent.  When  possible  the 
client  forces  the  agency  to  split  the  commission;  or  the  ad- 
vertiser may  finance  his  own  "house  agency."  There  are  argu- 
ments against  both  these  devices.  When  they  seem  plausible, 
recourse  is  had  to  other  forms  of  chiseling.  The  agency  is 
perhaps  asked  to  pay  the  salary  of  the  client's  advertising  or 
sales  manager.  In  any  event  the  client  insists  on  "service"  and 
lots  of  it.  He  demands  free  research  and  merchandizing  serv- 
ice, for  which  the  agency  would  like  to  charge,  and  some- 
times does  charge  an  additional  fee.  He  insists  on  dealing  with 
the  principals  of  the  agency,  whether  his  account  is  large  or 
small,  and  irrespective  of  the  competence  of  the  staff  workers 
assigned  to  the  account.  The  advertising  manager  expects  the 
agency's  art  department  to  design  his  Christmas  cards  and 
forget  to  bill  him.  The  advertisers'  statistician  expects  the 
agency's  copy  department  to  find  a  publisher  for  the  verse 
of  the  Wunkerkind  spawned  by  his  sister-in-law.  When  the 
advertiser's  advertising  manager,  or  sales  manager,  or  vice 
president  of  the  Company,  their  wives,  cousins,  etc.,  come  to 
New  York,  they  are  duly  entertained  in  more  or  less  Baby- 
lonian fashion,  depending  upon  their  estimated  importance, 
and  their  previously  ascertained  habits  and  tastes.  The  bill  for 
this  entertainment  is  duly  applied  to  the  agency's  overhead 
on  that  particular  account. 

But  the  necessitated  elements  of  conspicuous  waste  are  most 
apparent  in  the  Presentation  to  the  Client  which  our  friend 
Eddie  Butts,  in  the  nocturnal  solitude  of  his  skyscraper  eyrie, 
is  now  somewhat  morosely  examining. 

The  service  embodied  in  that  presentation  must  look  as  if 
it  were  worth  at  least  twice  what  the  client  is  asked  to  pay 
for  it,  as  determined  by  15%  of  the  net  recommended  ex- 
penditure for  publication,  radio,  car-card,  poster,  direct,  and 

other  miscellaneous  advertising.  In  this  respect  it  is  like  the 
presentation  of  any  advertised  product  to  the  consumer.  The 
jar  of  cold  cream  worth  8  cents  must  look  as  if  it  were  worth 
the  $2.00  that  is  charged  for  it.  The  cheap  car  must  look  like 
an  expensive  car.  The  $1.98  dress  must  look  like  a  million 
dollars.  All  this  is  what  is  known  as  "psychological"  selling, 
and  the  principle  operates  in  unbroken  continuity  through 
the  whole  fabric  of  the  advertising  business. 

Eddie  Butts  conducts  his  examination  of  the  agency's 
highly  styled  and  psychologized  product  from  back  to  front. 
The  client,  when  the  presentation  is  made  to  him,  will  pro- 
ceed similarly,  since  the  nub  of  the  argument  lies  in  the  rec- 
ommended net  expenditure,  a  figure  which  appears  incon- 
spicuously at  the  end  of  Volume  III. 

In  this  case,  the  figure  is  only  moderate — about  $500,000 
— and  as  Eddie  Butts,  reading  from  right  to  left,  weaves 
through  the  maze  of  charts,  tables,  graphs,  copy  and  mer- 
chandizing these,  etc.,  etc.,  he  reflects  ruefully  that  this  pre- 
sentation not  only  looks  like  a  million  dollars,  but  as  a  mat- 
ter of  fact,  it  has  already  cost  the  agency  a  good  deal  more 
than  it  should  have  cost. 

There  has  been  a  lot  of  grief  on  this  account.  In  the  be- 
ginning it  dropped  into  the  house  more  or  less  out  of  the 
blue.  Old  Hanson  came  back  from  a  trip  tkrough  the  Middle 
West  with  the  contract  in  his  pocket.  Everybody  was  con- 
siderably surprised,  since  Hanson's  function  in  the  agency 
had  come  to  be  regarded  as  almost  wholly  ornamental.  A 
rather  handsome,  gray-haired,  middle-aged  person,  his  ap- 
pearance and  manner  suggested  extreme  probity,  conserva- 
tism, and  a  certain  wise  and  sophisticated  benignity.  Copy 
writers,  art  directors  and  other  "creative"  workers  occasion- 
ally testified  to  each  other  that  Hanson  was  stupid,  and  pro- 
duced more  or  less  convincing  evidence  to  this  effect.  But  the 
heads  of  the  agency,  being  a  shade  more  sophisticated  than 
either  Hanson  or  his  critics,  were  aware  that  certain  varieties 


of  handsomely  packaged  stupidity  are  not  without  their  uses 
in  the  advertising  business.  So  that  Hanson's  position  was 

But  he  certainly  had  pulled  a  boner  on  this  account.  Eddie 
recalled  the  preliminary  conference  called  to  consider  the 
problem  of  Primrose  Cheese  and  to  devise  appropriate  solu- 

The  stenographer's  record  listed  as  among  those  present 
Hanson,  Butts,  (Eddie  was  the  group  director  having  super-, 
visory  responsibility  for  the  account)  McNear,  the  art  direc- 
tor and  Appleton,  his  young  assistant;  Blashfield,  the  bril- 
liant copy-art-plan  man,  the  outstanding  advertising  genius 
of  the  Kidd,  Kirby  &  Dougherty  Agency;  Shean,  the  copy 
man,  whose  strictly  disinterested  facility  made  him  a  useful 
understudy  for  Blashfield  and  others;  Mrs.  Betts,  the  head  of 
the  Domestic  Science  Bureau,  a  rather  grandiose,  gray-haired 
personality,  full  of  sex  antagonism  and  quite  without  a  sense 
of  humor;  Harmsworth  and  Billings,  the  last-named  being 
merely  a  couple  of  obscure  copy  hacks. 

The  day  previous  to  the  conference,  all  these  people  had 
received,  along  with  notice  of  their  mobilization,  a  sample 
of  Primrose  Cheese,  with  strict  injunction  to  eat  it  that  eve- 
ning. It  was  a  large  sample,  and  Eddie  recalled  that  some  of 
the  conferees  looked  a  little  the  worse  for  wear  that  morning. 

In  opening  the  meeting,  Eddie  made  the  usual  preliminary 
pep  talk,  duly  deposited  the  problem  on  the  long  mahogany 
table,  and  called  for  solutions. 

Mr.  Hanson:  Since  I  am  more  or  less  responsible  for  bring- 
ing this  account  into  the  house,  perhaps  I  should  tell  you 
some  of  the  circumstances.  Mr.  Outerbridge,  the  advertising 
manager  of  the  Primrose  Cheese  Company,  is  a  college  class- 
mate of  mine,  and  it  is  through  him  that  the  account  was 
secured.  The  Primrose  Cheese  Company  is  one  of  the  four 
largest  manufacturers  of  cheese  in  America.  Yet  hitherto  it 
has  never  advertised  its  products,  except  in  the  grocery  trade 


press.  The  reputation  of  Primrose  Cheese  with  the  trade  is 
unexcelled.  It  is  sold  from  Coast  to  Coast  and  from  Maine 
to  Florida.  Recently  sales  have  been  declining.  The  competi- 
tion of  advertised  packaged  brands  has  been  steadily  eating 
into  their  business.  They've  got  to  advertise.  Mr.  Outerbridge 
is  convinced  of  this.  His  principal,  Mr. — Mr.  Himmelschlussel, 
President  of  the  Primrose  Cheese  Company,  whom  I  did  not 
have  the  privilege  of  meeting,  is  I  understand  still  reluctant. 
But  he  realizes  that  something  has  to  be  done,  and  he  has 
consented  to  the  appointment  of  this  agency  subject  to  his 
approval  of  our  recommendations.  We've  got  a  tough  selling 
job  on  all  fronts,  gentlemen.  We've  got  the  whole  job  to  do: 
packaging,  merchandizing,  branding,  pricing,  merchandiz- 
ing the  whole  works.  It's  an  old  conservative  firm  and  their 
credit  is  Ai.  Mrs.  Betts  is  experimenting  with  Primrose 
Cheese  and  the  Research  department  has  already  started  its 
work.  What  we  want  today,  I  take  it,  is  some  first  class  ad- 
vertising ideas.  I  have  an  idea  myself,  but  I  shan't  spring  it 
until  I've  heard  from  some  of  the  rest  of  you. 

Mr.  Sbean:  What  kind  of  cheese  is  it? 

Mr.  Hanson:  Just  good,  one  hundred  per  cent  American 
cheese.  You  ought  to  know.  You  ate  some  of  it,  didn't  you? 

Mr.  Skean:  Yeah,  I  did.  Will  you  excuse  me  a  moment.  I'll 
be  right  back. 


Mr.  Buffs:  Charley,  why  don't  you  start  the  ball  rolling 
yourself.  You  said  you  had  an  idea. 

Mr.  Hanson:  Very  well.  I  have  here,  gentlemen,  an  option 
signed  by  the  originator  of  Mickey  and  Minnie  Mouse.  By 
the  terms  of  this  option,  it  is  understood  that  in  consideration 
of  a  payment  of  one  thousand  dollars,  which  I  took  the  lib- 
erty of  making  on  my  own  responsibility,  both  Mickey  and 
Minnie  Mouse  will  positively  refrain  from  writing  testimo- 
nials for  any  other  cheese  for  the  next  three  months.  My 
recommendation,  gentlemen,  is  that  our  campaign  be  based 

on  the  testimonials  of  Mickey  and  Minnie  Mouse.  When  any- 
body says  cheese,  what's  the  first  thing  you  think  of?  Mice. 
Who's  the  world's  most  famous  mouse?  Mickey  Mouse.  Gen- 
tlemen, it's  never  been  done  before,  and  it's  a  natural.  What 
do  you  think? 


Mrs.  Betts:  What  do  we  need  Mickey  for?  It's  Minnie  that 
runs  the  kitchen,  isn't  it?  Excuse  me  for  a  moment,  please. 
I'll  be  right  back. 


Mr.  Billings:  (Who  has  recently  escaped  from  the  copy 
desk  of  a  tabloid)  Ha! 

Mr.  Butts:  Billings,  will  you  stop  that  obscene  cackle? 

The  stenographer's  record  became  defective  at  this  point. 
Eddie's  memory  supplied  the  details.  Harmsworth,  Princeton, 
1928,  who  had  recently  graduated  from  the  apprentice  course 
of  the  agency,  had  also  elected  that  moment  to  be  brought 
to  bed  with  a  big  idea  of  some  sort.  Harmsworth  was  typical 
of  the  class  of  Unhappy  Rich  Boys  for  whom  advertising 
agencies  have  been  required  increasingly  to  serve  as  dumping 
grounds.  He  was  the  nephew  of  the  chairman  of  the  board 
of  Planetary  Founders  Corporation.  It  was  rumored  that  on 
attaining  his  majority,  he  had  inherited  three  million  dollars 
from  his  mother.  He  didn't  have  to  work.  He  played  polo 
rather  well,  but  not  well  enough  to  rate  any  great  distinction 
in  his  set.  And  being  a  serious  minded  youth  with  no  vices 
and  no  talents,  it  was  necessary  for  him  to  have  some  occupa- 
tion, some  role  in  life,  to  which  he  could  refer  in  his  conver- 
sations with  Junior  League  debutantes.  Advertising,  a  roman- 
tic, more  or  less  literary  profession,  filled  the  bill  admirably. 

Harmsworth  got  in  at  nine  o'clock  every  morning  and  fre- 
quently stayed  until  six.  With  the  other  apprentices,  he  did 
his  bit  on  research,  which  meant  days  of  hot  and  heavy  foot- 
work in  the  wilds  of  Queens  and  the  Oranges,  ringing  door- 

bells,  and  asking  impertinent  questions  of  stolidly  uncoop- 
erative housewives. 

This  was  Harmsworth's  first  agency  conference  and  his 
first  Big  Idea.  Its  delivery  was  complicated  by  the  fact  that 
in  moments  of  great  excitement,  Harmsworth  stuttered  pain- 

Mr.  Harmsworth:  C-c-can't  we  t-t-tie  this  c-campaign  up 
to  the  n-n-to  the  n-n-news?  How  about  hooking  it  up  with 
relativity?  There's  so  much  f-f-  so  much  food  value  in  ch-ch- 
cheese.  Relatively,  you  know.  More  f-f  food  value  than  meat. 
More  than  eggs.  Maybe  we  could  g-g-g-g-maybe  we  could 
get  Einstein! 

Mr.  Billings  (who  is  frantically  waving  two  fingers) :  Ex- 
cuse me,  please. 

Mr.  Butt  si  All  right,  Billings. 

Mr.  Harmsworth:  Of  course,  it  may  be  a  b-b-  a  bum  hunch. 
I  just  thought — 


By  this  time  the  conference  was  pretty  well  mired.  Some- 
thing had  to  be  done,  and  as  usual,  Blashfield  did  it.  Blash- 
field's  salary  was  thirty  thousand  dollars  a  year,  plus  his  par- 
ticipation as  a  stockholder  in  the  agency's  profits.  Blashfield 
didn't  think  that  was  enough.  Every  day,  in  every  possible 
way,  he  proved  it  wasn't  enough.  Cruelly,  sadistically,  he  ex- 
posed the  incompetence,  the  muddleheadedness  of  his  asso- 
ciates. He  had  a  string  of  copy  writers  and  layout  men  work- 
ing under  him,  all  of  whom  hated  him  cordially.  Their  work 
was  rarely  used,  except  as  a  foil  to  exhibit  the  superior  bril- 
liance of  the  agency's  star  copy-art-plan  performer.  At  the 
last  moment,  in  a  day  or  two  days,  he  would  knock  out  the 
copy,  rough  layouts,  plan  and  marketing  strategy  for  a  whole 
campaign.  Artists,  printers,  engravers,  the  mechanical  pro- 
duction staff  of  the  agency,  would  be  called  upon  to  work 
nights  and  Sundays  to  complete  the  job.  Blashfield's  overtime 
bills  were  notorious. 


Then,  with  the  plan  memorandum  snatched  from  the  ste- 
nographer and  flanked  by  two  or  three  subordinates  carrying 
unwieldy  art  and  other  exhibits,  he  would  lope  out  of  his 
office,  pile  into  a  taxi,  and  catch  the  train  for  Baltimore  just 
as  it  was  moving  out  of  the  station.  The  next  morning  he 
would  lope  back  into  the  office,  like  a  half-back  completing 
an  end  run,  and  deposit  the  okayed  plan,  copy,  layout  and 
appropriation  on  Eddie  Butts'  desk. 

Blashfield  had  done  it  again:  bis  plan,  bis  copy,  bis  layouts, 
bis  sale.  Alone  in  Baltimore  he  had  dazzled  the  client  with 
the  coruscations  of  his  wit,  the  machine  gun  rattle  of  his 
logic,  the  facile  improvisations  of  genius  answering  every  ob- 
jection with  pungent  phrase  or  graphic  line.  O.K.  Now  Ed- 
die, it's  up  to  you  to  follow  it. 

From  sad  experience,  Eddie  had  learned  what  to  do  on  such 
occasions.  The  first  thing  to  do  was  to  take  the  train  to  Balti- 
more himself  and  pick  up  the  pieces.  Eddie  knew  what  he 
would  find.  He  would  find  a  group  of  business  men  experienc- 
ing a  perfectly  dreadful  morning  after  hangover,  and  indulg- 
ing in  the  usual  orgy  of  remorse  and  mutual  recrimination. 

Blashfield  had  been,  shone  and  conquered.  Blashfield  was  a 
brilliant  fellow — an  advertising  genius.  Sure,  and  they  hoped 
to  God  they  never  saw  him  again.  Now  about  this  damned 
contract  they  had  signed.  .  .  . 

Eddie  was  no  genius.  As  an  advertising  man  he  was  only 
mediocre.  But  as  a  fixer  he  was  an  expert.  Even  so,  he  would 
be  lucky  if,  after  two  weeks  of  hard  work,  he  emerged  with 
a  modified  appropriation  and  a  revised  campaign,  in  which 
some  remnants  of  Blashfield's  initial  performance  might  or 
might  not  be  discernible.  The  campaign  as  carried  out  might 
be  better  or  worse  than  Blashfield's  original.  Usually  it  was 
worse,  for  Blashfield's  competence  was  genuine  enough.  But 
for  better  or  worse  it  was  duly  billed  and  commissioned, 
which  was  the  sort  of  thing  the  agency's  treasurer  was  forever 
grousing  about.  So  that  Eddie  Butts'  salary  was  thirty-five 


thousand  dollars  a  year,  a  fact  that  forever  festered  like  a 
thorn  in  the  Achilles'  heel  of  the  agency  genius. 

Because  of  the  repetition  of  such  experience,  the  heads  of 
the  agency  had  increasingly  restricted  Blashfield's  pyrotech- 
nics to  the  home  grounds,  where  he  could  be  carefully  watched 
and  protected  against  himself.  No  let-up  of  the  Blashfield 
drive  had  resulted,  but  his  hobbled  ego  required  more  and 
more  bloody  human  sacrifices.  His  performance  at  the  Prim- 
rose Cheese  conference  had  been  sanguinary  in  the  extreme. 

Beginning  suavely,  he  had  made  some  incisive  remarks  about 
the  standards  of  agency  practice,  the  nature  and  purpose  of 
agency  conferences.  Abruptly  he  swung  into  a  disquisition 
on  the  natural  history  and  personal  habits  of  mice;  mice  that 
live  in  old  houses  but  are  never  housebroken;  old  mice,  young 
mice;  the  love  life  of  the  mouse;  mother  mice  and  their  pink 
and  squirming  progeny;  mice  and  elephants,  and  the  tactless- 
ness of  both  as  dinner  guests;  mice  that  creep  out  from  under 
sinks  and  leer  up  at  horrified  housewives;  (at  this  point  Mrs. 
Betts  lifted  her  skirts  and  barely  suppressed  a  shriek.)  Mice 
and  cheese.  The  kind  of  cheese  mice  eat,  and  the  obscene 
sounds  they,  make  while  eating;  the  dumbness  of  mice  and  the 
dumbness  of  men. 

By  this  time  old  Hanson  was  purple  with  rage.  But  be- 
fore he  could  interrupt  Blashfield,  whom  the  stenographer 
had  given  up  trying  to  follow,  was  well  launched  upon  a 
burlesque  of  relativity,  which  rapidly  took  form  as  a  con- 
vention of  mouse  domestic  science  experts,  presided  over  by 
Minnie  Mouse,  and  discussing  the  relative  dietetic  merits  of 
meat,  cheese,  caviar,  etc.  Even  Harmsworth  laughed,  partly 
to  cover  his  confusion. 

Then  abruptly  the  wizard's  mood  changed.  Come  on  fel- 
lows. Let's  be  serious.  What's  the  best  way  to  sell  cheese? 
Primrose  Cheese? 

With  rapid  logic  he  outlined  the  campaign  that  could, 
should  and  must  be  conducted.  The  consumption  of  cheese  in 


America  was  negligible  compared  to  its  consumption  in 
France,  England,  Germany,  Switzerland — throughout  the 
world.  The  dietetic  habits  of  America  must  be  transformed. 
An  institutional  campaign,  then?  No,  a  selling  campaign, 
hard-boiled  selling  copy  that  would  boost  the  sales  of  Prim- 
rose Cheese  from  week  to  week  and  from  month  to  month. 
But  the  copy  would  be  educational  too.  It  would  show  the 
things  that  Americans  do  eat  and  drink,  and  dovetail  cheese 
into  the  menu;  Primrose  Cheese  for  the  cocktail  party.  Cheese 
for  dessert — the  continental  idea.  That's  what  all  the  best 
people  are  doing  and  the  rest  of  America  must  be  shamed  into 
imitating  the  Best  People.  Style.  Style  in  the  copy.  Style  in 
the  art.  Jean  Mazarin  for  the  art — he'll  be  in  New  York  in 
two  weeks  and  he'll  love  it. 

Now,  as  to  the  trademark  that  some  of  you  have  been 
worrying  about.  What  is  it?  A  primrose,  crossed  with  a  key. 
It  looks  a  little  like  a  swastika,  and  a  little  like  a  Jewish 
candlestick.  But  look  at  it  now. 

Blashfield  executed  a  few  swift  strokes  on  his  sketching 

There's  your  solution.  It's  still  a  little  like  a  swastika,  and  all 
the  patriotic  Germans  will  notice  it.  It's  also  a  little  like  a  Jew- 
ish candlestick,  and  all  the  Jews  will  notice  that.  But  a  second 
look  will  convince  anybody  that  it's  neither  one  nor  the  other 
— and  that's  just  fine  for  everybody. 

As  usual,  Blashfield  had  swept  all  before  him.  The  confer- 
ence broke  up  after  an  assignment  of  preliminary  tasks,  all 
to  be  executed  under  his  supervision.  The  other  Big  Ideas,  of 
course,  were  never  removed  from  the  appropriate  receptacle 
into  which  Blashfield,  with  surgical  dispatch,  had  consigned 

Harmsworth  had  played  polo  all  the  next  week,  and  when 
he  returned  was  assigned  to  a  bank  account.  Hanson  had 
groused  for  a  while.  His  first  idea  in  twenty  years.  And  on 
investigation  it  proved  not  to  be  his  idea  after  all.  It  was  his 


secretary's  idea,  and  for  several  weeks  thereafter  the  gossip  of 
the  women's  room  was  enlivened  by  the  lady's  complaints 
about  how  hard  it  was  for  a  girl  to  get  ahead  in  a  big 

The  campaign  had  consumed  the  time  of  eight  or  ten  people 
for  three  months.  In  the  end,  Blashfield  had  scrapped  their 
efforts  and  done  the  whole  job  himself  in  a  last  minute  orgy 
of  nerve-racking  and  expensive  nightwork  by  all  and  sun- 

Eddie  Butts  winced  as  he  read  a  memorandum  from  the 
Treasurer,  protesting  against  so  huge  a  bill  for  preliminary 
work  on  what  was  after  all,  not  a  major  account. 

Well,  there  it  was.  And  now  if  Bob  Niemyer's  steer  was 
right,  there  would  be  hell  to  pay  tomorrow. 

Eddie  sighed,  pushed  his  dictaphone  into  the  corner,  and 
helped  himself  to  a  shot  of  the  house  liquor. 

2.     THE  FIRE  ALARM 

It  was  close  to  midnight,  and  Eddie  Butts  was  in  the  middle 
of  his  third  pipe  before  Bob  Niemyer,  the  space  salesman,  and 
his  German  friend,  stumbled  through  the  darkened  outer 
office  and  banged  on  his  door. 

They  were  not  drunk;  merely  very  formal  and  very,  very 

"Eddie,  meet  my  friend  Oscar  Schleiermacher  .  .  .  Thanks, 
I  guess  I  can  stand  another  .  .  .  Eddie,  I'm  afraid  this  is 
serious.  Oscar  knows  what  he's  talking  about,  and  he  tells 
me  that  the  big  shot  of  the  Primrose  Cheese  Company,  Haken- 
schmidt — 

"Himmelschlussel,  August  B.  Himmelschussel,"  prompted 

"All  right,  Himmelschlussel.  Well,  as  I  was  saying,  I  was 
telling  Oscar  about  the  swell  presentation  you'd  worked  up 
for  Primrose  Cheese — naturally  he  wants  a  piece  of  it  for  his 


friends  on  the  Vortschrift — and  when  I  got  to  the  big  idea, 
cheese  and  beer,  cheese  and  cigarettes,  cheese  for  the  cocktail 
party,  why  I'm  telling  you  Oscar  almost  passed  out.  Didn't 
you,  Oscar?" 

Oscar  made  an  eloquent  gesture,  hitched  his  chair  forward, 
and  drained  a  large  glass  of  Scotch  at  a  swallow. 

"You  see,  Eddie,  this  bird  Himmelschlussel  runs  his  own 
business.  And  how!  He's  got  the  o.k.  on  everything,  see? 
What  he  says  goes.  And  what  he's  going  to  say  when  he  sees 
this  campaign  of  yours  won't  even  be  funny." 

Mr.  Schleiermacher  nodded  solemnly. 

"Er  ist  ein  Herrenhuter.  Sein  Frau  auch." 

"There,"  said  Bob.  "What  did  I  tell  you?  He's  a  Herren- 
huter. What's  a  Herrenhuter?  That's  what  you're  going  to 
find  out  when  old  Himmelschlussel  gets  an  eyeful  of  that 
French  night  club  art  moderne  Blashfield  has  cooked  up  for 
him.  A  Herrenhuter  is  a  Fundamentalist,  only  worse.  Let's 
be  serious,  Eddie.  This  Himmelschlussel  is  religious  as  all  hell. 
He's  a  prohibitionist.  Some  of  his  coin  goes  to  the  Anti- 
Saloon  League.  What's  more,  Mrs.  Himmelschlussel  is  one  of 
the  big  shots  in  the  Anti-Cigarette  League.  Nobody  that 
works  for  Primrose  Cheese  can  drink,  smoke  or  forget  to  say 
his  prayers.  Isn't  that  right,  Oscar?" 

"Ach,  ja,"  said  Oscar.  "Er  ist  ein  Herrenhuter.  Sein  Frau 

"His  wife  too,"  said  Mr.  Niemyer.  "So  when  Oscar  gives 
me  the  lowdown,  I  says  to  him:  'Eddie  Butts  has  got  to  know 
about  this.  Eddie  Butts  is  a  friend  of  mine.  Eddie  and  I  are 
just  like  this'.  Y'  get  me,  Eddie?  What  makes  it  worse,  this 
Himmelschlussel  has  a  bad  case  of  shell  shock  on  advertising 
anyway.  Ain't  that  right,  Oscar? 

"Schrecklich,"  confirmed  Oscar  with  an  expansive  gesture. 

"The  story  goes  like  this,"  continued  Mr.  Niemyer.  "The 
local  team  of  the  League  wins  the  pennant,  see?  And  Him- 
melschlussel, he's  a  fan.  Sure,  baseball,  that's  his  only  vice.  It 


seems  he  has  a  nephew  playing  shortstop  on  the  team.  That 
was  eight  years  ago.  Well,  Old  Himmelschlussel,  he's  the 
proud  uncle,  and  he's  got  to  do  something  about  it,  see?  So 
what  does  he  do?  A  big  dinner  for  the  team,  see?  Hell  with 
expense.  Sauerbraten,  Kartofelkloss,  leberknudel,  hasenpfeffer, 
the  whole  works.  No  beer,  no  hard  liquor.  No  cigarettes. 
Cheese.  Boy,  was  there  cheese!  Big  camembert  in  the  middle  of 
the  table.  Four  feet  high,  weighs  eighty  pounds.  Mottoes. 
Clock  works.  Imitation  dugout.  Birdie  pops  out  of  dugout. 
Cuckoo,  cuckoo,  cuckoo — counts  the  score,  see?  Fine.  Swell. 
Cost  a  lot  of  money.  Only  thing  is,  you  know  camembert. 
Eighty  pounds  of  camembert.  Ripe.  Not  so  good.  And  those 
bush  leaguers  thirsty  as  camels,  and  no  beer.  So  they  get 
tough.  Bean  the  birdie  with  pop  bottles.  Raise  hell,  see?  That's 
bad  enough,  but  next  day  the  papers  get  funny.  Himmel- 
(schlussel  don't  advertise,  see?  They  keep  it  up  for  days.  Him- 
melschlussel sore.  Feelings  hurt.  You  tell  him,  Oscar.  "Were  his 
feelings  hurt? 

"Vom  herz,  Herr  Butts.  Vom  herz.  Ach,  schrecklich." 
Oscar  held  his  head  and  rocked  in  remembered  sympathy. 

"So  Himmelschlussel  goes  Herrenhuter  again,  worse  than 
ever.  Ten  thousand  simoleons  that  year  to  the  Anti-Saloon 
League.  And  no  more  advertising  stunts.  That  contract  of 
yours — how  his  sales  manager  got  that  out  of  the  old  man 
I  just  can't  imagine,  unless  they're  in  trouble  .  .  .  What's 
that,  Eddie.  Don't  want  to  rub  it  in.  Just  trying  to  do  you  a 
favor,  see?  You  and  me  are  pals.  As  I  says  to  Oscar,  I  says — 
what  d'you  say,  Eddie?" 

"I  said,  Jesus  H.  Christ!" 

Eddie  Butts  wasn't  listening.  The  fire  alarm  had  rung.  He 
was  busy  hunting  numbers  in  the  office  telephone  directory. 
Blashfield  first.  Damn  Blashfield.  Damn  Hanson.  Why  hadn't 
they  found  out  about  this  big  shot? 

"Thanks,  Bob,"  said  Eddie,  as  he  led  his  visitors  to  the 
elevator.  "I'll  let  you  know  what  happens.  We  got  a  day  and 


a  half.  Maybe  we  can  pull  out.  Good-night.  Good-night,  Mr. 
Schleiermacher,  and  thanks  for  the  steer." 


After  hours.  The  genius  of  advertising  burns  brightest  after 
hours.  When  the  noise  of  traffic  is  stilled,  when  the  stream  of 
office  time-servers  has  flowed  north  into  the  Bronx,  east  and 
west  under  and  over  the  rivers  to  be  blotted  up  by  the  vast 
and  formless  spaces  of  Long  Island  and  Jersey,  light  still 
lingers  in  the  sky-scrapers  of  the  mid-town  district. 

Light  and  vision.  Not  money  alone  could  buy  the  devotion 
of  these  weary-eyed  night  workers.  It  is  something  else,  some- 
thing strange,  incredible,  miraculous — perhaps  a  little  mad. 
Is  it  for  beauty  that  they  burn  themselves?  For  truth?  For 
some  great  cause?  No,  it  is  none  of  these.  It  is  like  a  perverse 
and  blinding  discharge  of  human  electricity,  like  athletes  bat- 
tling on  the  gridiron,  or  soldiers  going  over  the  top. 

In  the  Sargasso  pool  of  quiet,  high  above  the  night-stricken 
city,  what  toils,  what  genuine  heart-breaks,  what  farcical 
triumphs  are  consummated! 

From  the  moment  that  Eddie  Butts  turned  in  the  fire 
alarm,  the  wheels  of  the  Kidd,  Kirby  &  Dougherty  agency 
never  stopped  turning.  Blashfield  swooped  in  from  West- 
chester,  worked  all  night,  and  when  his  secretary  came  in  the 
next  morning,  turned  over  a  basketful  of  new  copy  for  typ- 
ing. Eddie  Butts'  dictaphone  whirred  continuously.  Tense 
voices  barked  into  telephones.  Printers,  appalled  by  impossi- 
ble demands,  wailed  in  anguish,  achieved  the  impossible,  and 
viciously  pyramided  the  overtime  charges.  Layout  men  never 
left  their  drawing  boards.  Typists  worked  in  relays.  What 
had  taken  three  months  to  do  must  be  done  again,  but  this 
time  in  thirty-six  hours. 

It  was  done.  Miraculously,  it  was  done.  Blashfield  again. 
Blashfield  the  magnificent.  Never  was  the  man  so  dangerous 


as  when,  with  his  back  against  the  wall,  he  was  challenged  by 
the  impossible.  A  new  Big  Idea  had  been  conceived  and  was 
well  on  the  way  to  birth  before  he  reached  the  office.  Cheese 
and  pie.  New  England  stuff.  Native  American.  Simple,  homey. 
The  New  England  grandma.  The  Southern  mammy.  To  hell 
with  Mazarin.  Tell  him,  sorry,  pay  his  bill  or  part  of  it,  and 
charge  it  up  to  profit  and  loss.  Forsythe  is  our  man.  Forsythe, 
the  best  buck-eye  artist  in  America.  He's  busy?  What  of  it? 
I  said,  get  him. 

Forsythe  performed.  Blashfield  performed.  Clerks,  messen- 
gers, typists — everybody  performed. 

By  noon  of  the  scheduled  day  for  the  presentation  the 
miracle  was  accomplished.  Or  almost.  Typewriters  still  rattled 
and  savage-lipped  production  clerks  still  yapped  into  the  tele- 
phone. One  o'clock.  No  lunch  for  anybody.  Two  o'clock,  and 
the  final  pages  of  the  revised  plan  were  bound  into  the  port- 
folio. Three  o'clock,  and  Himmelschlussel  was  expected. 
Three-fifteen,  and  no  Himmelschlussel.  Had  something  gone 

Only  Colonel  Kidd  himself — Calvin  Kidd,  author,  editor 
and  advertising  man — only  Colonel  Kidd  remained  calm. 
Back  of  his  desk  a  framed  motto  proclaimed  the  solid  premise 
on  which  his  professional  imperturbability  was  based:  "There 
is  somebody  wiser  than  anybody.  That  somebody  is  every- 
body." It  doesn't  make  sense,  does  it?  Sure,  that's  just  the 
point.  Calvin  Kidd  was  a  mystic.  He  remained  calm.  But  his 
associates,  some  of  whom  may  have  felt  that  their  jobs  were 
at  stake,  were  less  philosophic.  At  the  telephone  switchboard, 
the  battery  of  skilled  operators  grew  querulous  striving  to 
release  the  tide  of  out-going  calls.  Himmelschlussel.  Himmel- 
schlussel! Where  in  hell  is  Himmelschlussel? 


It  wasn't  Dorothy's  fault.  Afterwards,  since  it  didn't  mat- 


ter  anyway — nothing  mattered — everybody  acknowledged 
that  you  couldn't  fairly  pin  it  on  Dorothy. 

Dorothy  was  the  reception  clerk,  stationed  in  the  lobby  of 
the  offices  of  Kidd,  Kirby  &  Dougherty,  with  a  pad  of  forms 
before  her  and  a  telephone  receiver  clasped  over  her  lovely 
blonde  hair.  Dorothy  knew  her  role,  which  was  to  make  quick 
and  accurate  judgments  and  translate  them  into  action. 

So  that  when  the  little  old  man  with  the  umbrella 
stepped  out  of  the  elevator,  she  knew  instantly  what  to  do. 
The  Primrose  Cheese  account  was  in  a  jam.  A  messenger  was 
expected  from  the  printer,  bringing  revised  proofs.  She  had 
been  warned  to  rush  him  through  without  delay  to  Mac  in  the 
mechanical  production  department.  Dorothy  spotted  him  in- 
stantly and  beckoned  him  to  the  desk.  The  little  old  man  ad- 
vanced somewhat  diffidently. 

"I  am  Mr.  Himmelschlussel.  I — 

"From  Hazenfuss,  yes.  You're  just  in  time.  Go  right 
through  the  side  door  and  ask  for  Mac." 

Hazenfuss  Brothers  was  the  printing  shop  which  at  the 
stern  behest  of  Blashfield  had  performed  the  current  typo- 
graphical miracle. 

The  little  old  man  hesitated,  but  Dorothy,  gracious  but  im- 
perative, motioned  him  to  the  side  door. 

He  vanished  into  a  welter  of  comptometers,  typewriters  and 
proof  presses.  Dorothy  had  just  an  instant  to  reflect  that  she 
hadn't  seen  this  particular  messenger  before.  Also,  wasn't  it 
Hazenfuss  that  dolled  up  their  messengers  in  naval  uniforms, 
so  that  they  all  looked  like  musical  comedy  Commodores? 
This  must  be  a  new  one.  Come  to  think  of  it,  he  did  wear 
a  kind  of  uniform,  too — certainly  was  a  funny  old  geezer. 
Maybe  Hazenfuss  had  thought  up  a  new  advertising  dodge. 

Meanwhile,  Mr.  Himmelschlussel  was  still  trying  to  find 
Mac.  Successively,  he  was  shunted  to  the  shipping  room,  to 
the  store  room  clerk,  to  the  purchasing  clerk.  Early  in  the 
ordeal,  Mr.  Himmelschlussel  began  to  lose  things.  First  he  lost 


his  umbrella.  Then  he  lost  his  hat.  Coincidentally  with  this 
second  disaster,  he  completely  lost  his  English. 

Alarmed  by  the  clamor  of  what  he  took  to  be  a  minor  riot 
in  the  mechanical  production  department,  Pfeiffer,  the  office 
manager,  emerged  from  his  cubicle  to  see  an  elderly  German- 
American  gesticulating  wildly  in  the  middle  of  a  circle  of 
bewildered  clerks.  At  intervals,  his  gray  pompadour  bristling, 
he  would  make  a  determined  break  for  one  of  the  innumerable 
doors,  only  to  be  hauled  back  by  an  expostulating  clerk. 

Fortunately,  Pfeiffer  spoke  German,  for  by  this  time  Mr. 
Himmelschlussel  could  speak  nothing  else.  .  .  . 

When  the  perspiring  Pfeiffer  finally  persuaded  the  long 
awaited  client  to  permit  himself  to  be  led  into  the  presence  of 
Colonel  Kidd  himself,  a  strange  quiet  had  descended  upon  the 
agency.  Mr.  Himmelschlussel  himself  was  quiet.  He  would 
speak  neither  English  nor  German.  In  response  to  Colonel 
Kidd's  urbanities  he  merely  grunted.  Blashfield's  irresistible 
wisecracks  died  unborn  upon  the  desolate  air. 

Silently,  the  procession  wended  to  the  conference  room.  In 
silence,  Mr.  Himmelschlussel  listened  to  the  reading  of  the 
plan.  Upon  the  lavish  exhibit  of  layouts,  charts,  proofs,  etc., 
he  turned  a  cold  Prussian  eye.  Silence. 

At  last,  Mr.  Himmelschlussel  spoke. 

"Gentlemen,  I  haf  joost  come  from  de  bank.  Business  is 
bad.  We  haf  an  offer  from  de  Universal  Foods  Corporation 
to  buy  Primrose  Cheese.  It  is  a  good  offer.  It  is  a  very  good 
offer.  We  have  accepted  that  offer. 

"Dese" — he  gestured  indifferently  at  the  decorated  walls  of 
the  conference  room — "dese  iss  very  pooty  pictures.  De  Uni- 
versal Foods  people,  maybe  dey  like  to  look  at  dem.  I  am 
sorry.  I  got  to  go  now.  My  wife  and  I,  we  have  friends  in 
Brooklyn.  Good  day,  gentlemen." 

In  the  far  corner  of  the  lobby  an  elderly  woman  was  wait- 
ing. She  had  been  waiting  a  long  time.  Dorothy  thought  she 
was  perhaps  a  cleaning  woman,  or  the  mother  of  one  of  the 

shipping  room  boys.  She  said  nothing  and  politely  resisted 
Dorothy's  gracious  solicitudes.  She  had  the  corner  to  herself 
now,  and  Dorothy  noticed  that  the  space  salesmen  had  put 
out  their  cigarettes. 

Eventually  Mr.  Himmelschlussel  emerged,  escorted  by 
Colonel  Kidd.  She  put  her  hand  under  his  arm.  They  got  into 
the  elevator.  They  went  to  Brooklyn  .  .  . 

Again  that  evening  Eddie  Butts  worked  late.  He  was  tired, 
very  tired.  He  had  missed  lunch  entirely  and  it  was  after 
seven.  Eddie  was  hungry.  There,  on  the  corner  of  the  desk, 
was  a  left-over  sample.  Cheese.  Primrose  Cheese. 

Holding  the  package  at  arm's  length,  Eddie  went  to  the 
open  window.  It  took  a  long  time  falling.  You  couldn't  hear 
it  strike,  but  you  could  just  barely  see  the  yellow  splotch  it 
made  on  the  pavement. 

Eddie  lingered  at  the  window.  Thirty-two  stories.  Every 
now  and  then  an  advertising  man  jumps  out  of  one  of  those 
high  windows  in  the  Grand  Central  district.  Usually,  it  is 
the  follow-up  man,  the  old  reliable.  Usually,  it  is  Eddie  Butts. 



The  Product  of  Advertising 

THE  foregoing  fictionized  account  of  what  happens  in  a 
large  advertising  agency  will  doubtless  strike  the  lay  reader 
as  exaggerated.  It  will  be  denounced,  more  or  less  sincerely, 
by  advertising  men  who  have  lived  and  toiled  so  long  on  the 
other  side  of  the  Advertising  Looking  Glass  that  the  bar- 
barous farce-as-usual  of  advertising  practice  has  become  for 
them  the  only  reality,  the  only  "sanity"  with  which  their 
minds  are  equipped  to  deal. 

The  account  is  nevertheless  true  in  every  essential  respect. 
The  fiction  is  no  stranger  than  many  of  the  sober  facts  set 
forth  elsewhere  in  this  volume. 

We  have  now  to  consider  what  sort  of  product  this  adver- 
tising mill  turns  out.  Again,  the  writer's  inclusions  may  seem 
at  first  thought  too  sweeping. 

The  advertisement  itself  is  the  least  significant  part  of  this 
product.  The  advertisement  is  an  instrument,  a  tool,  and  the 
ad-man  is  a  toolmaker.  In  using  these  tools  the  newspapers, 
magazines  and  radio  broadcasters  become  something  other 
than  what  they  are  commonly  supposed  to  be;  that  is  one 
result.  By  operating  as  they  must  operate,  not  as  they  are 
supposed  to  operate,  these  major  instruments  of  social  com- 
munication in  turn  manufacture  products,  and  these  products 
are  the  true  end  products  of  the  advertising  industry. 

The  most  significant  product,  or  result,  is  the  effective  dis- 
solution of  practically  all  local  or  regional,  autonomous  or 


semi-autonomous  cultures  based  economically  on  functional 
processes  of  production  and  exchange  and  culturally  on  the 
ethical,  moral  and  aesthetic  content  of  such  processes.  The 
advertising-manufactured  substitute  for  these  organic  cul- 
tures is  a  national,  standardized,  more  or  less  automatic 
mechanism,  galvanized  chiefly  by  pecuniary  motivations  and 
applying  emulative  pressures  to  all  classes  of  the  population. 

In  England,  where  the  organic  culture  was  older,  richer 
and  more  resistant,  publicists  and  educators  are  more  keenly 
aware  of  the  significance  and  potency  of  advertising,  although 
there  the  business  is  still  relatively  embryonic,  lacking  either 
the  scale  or  the  intensity  of  the  American  phenomenon. 
Culture  and  Environment,  by  F.  R.  Leavis  and  Denys  Thomp- 
son, best  exhibits  the  1933  English  awareness  of  what  is  hap- 
pening, and  this  excellent  book,  representing  the  collaboration 
of  a  literary  critic  and  a  schoolmaster  will  be  referred  to  again 
in  later  chapters.  Among  English  creative  writers,  D.  H. 
Lawrence  seems  to  have  grasped  intuitively  almost  from  the 
beginning,  the  nature  and  causes  of  the  disintegrative  process. 

In  America,  the  most  impressive  testimony,  both  conscious 
and  unconscious,  to  the  progressive  disintegration  of  the 
organic  American  culture  is  contained  in  the  work  of  Sher- 
wood Anderson.  Anderson  grew  up  in  a  small  Middle  Western 
town  during  the  period  when  the  organic  relation  between 
agriculture  and  small  town  craft-industry  was  being  shat- 
tered by  the  emergent  forces  of  mass  production,  mass  dis- 
tribution, and  by  the  pseudoculture  which  the  rapidly 
expanding  apparatus  of  advertising  manufacture  as  a  mechani- 
cal substitute  for  what  it  destroyed.  First  as  a  manufacturer 
and  later  as  an  advertising  man,  Anderson  participated  un- 
willingly in  this  dual  process  of  destruction  and  substitu- 

This  experience,  in  the  view  of  the  writer,  provides  the 
essential  clue  to  an  understanding  of  Anderson's  verse,  short 
stories  and  novels.  Much  of  the  brilliant  early  work  was  writ- 


ten  on  the  marginal  time  of  an  advertising  copy  writer  em- 
ployed by  a  large  Chicago  agency.  It  has  a  single  theme:  the 
passionate  rejection  of  the  ad-man's  pseudoculture  and  the 
nostalgic  search  for  the  organic  culture  that  was  already  dead 
or  dying.  Anderson  saw  that  the  disintegration  and  steriliza- 
tion of  the  culture  is  reflected  in  the  fragmentation  and 
neutering  of  the  individual.  In  novel  after  novel,  story  after 
story,  we  see  him  separating  the  quick  from  the  dead  and 
driving  first  backward,  then  forward,  into  some  terrain  more 
habitable  for  the  human  spirit. 

The  reader  will  perhaps  have  been  struck  by  the  inhuman, 
hysterical,  phantasmagoric  quality  of  advertising  agency  prac- 
tice as  described  in  the  preceding  chapter.  This  is  inevitable. 
The  prime  mover  of  the  advertising  mill,  the  drive  for  profits, 
has  no  concern  whatever  for  human  life.  Without  organic 
life  itself,  the  advertising  mill  is  fueled  by  the  organic  cul- 
tural life  which  it  disintegrates  and  consumes,  but  does  not 
restore  or  replace.  On  cultural  as  well  as  on  economic  grounds 
it  may  be  said  that  this  organic  social  heritage  is  not  in- 
exhaustible. Hence  the  advertising  mill  not  only  disintegrates 
and  destroys  all  the  humanity  that  comes  within  the  sphere 
of  its  influence  but  is  ultimately,  like  the  modern  capitalist 
economy  of  which  it  is  a  part,  self-destructive. 

One  sees  this  advertising  mill  as  a  coldly  whirring  turbine 
whose  hum  is  so  loud,  so  continuous,  so  omnipresent  that  we 
no  longer  hear  it.  Its  force  is  centrifugal:  all  warm  human 
life  is  expelled  into  the  peripheral  darkness  where  it  continues 
to  revolve  although  the  machine  can  no  longer  use  this 
nebula  of  burned-out  dead  and  dying  matter. 

At  the  heart  of  the  machine  we  see  dim  figures  moving: 
the  sort  of  people  whom  the  writer  has  tried  to  make  real 
and  credible  in  the  preceding  chapter.  They  rush  here  and 
there,  fiddling  with  levers,  filling  the  grease  cups.  .  .  .  They 
are  dead  men.  Against  the  blue  light  their  hands  are  lifted 
in  queer,  stylized  gestures.  They  speak,  but  what  they  say  is 

without  human  meaning.  It  is  the  machine  speaking  through 
them  and  the  sound  comes  to  us  like  the  sound  of  a  phono- 
graph playing  a  cracked  record,  hugely  and  hoarsely  ampli- 
fied. The  lips  of  the  robots  move  and  we  hear:  .  .  .  "Adver- 
tising is  the  new  world  force  lustily  breeding  progress.  It  is 
the  clarion  note  of  business  principle.  It  is  the  bugle  call  to 
prosperity.  But  great  force  as  it  is,  advertising  must  seek  all 
aid  from  literature  and  art  in  order  that  it  may  assume  that 
dignity  which  is  its  rightful  heritage.  Advertising  is  ... 
oom-pah!  oom-pah!  Under  the  New  Deal  good  advertising 
will  become  more  essential  than  ever.  It  will  be  in  a  position 
to  help  the  business  executive  to  avoid  those  wasteful  and 
excessive  practices  in  selling  which  so  often  add  needless  costs 
to  needed  products.  Good  advertising  is  opposed  to  senseless 
price  cutting  and  to  unfair  competition.  Constructive  sell- 
.  .  .  oom-pah!  oom-pah!  No  sales  policy  is  permanently 
beneficial  that  has  its  roots  in  deception  .  .  .  oom-pah!  oom- 
pah!  It  costs  a  lot  of  money  when  a  community  is  to  be 
attacked  .  .  .  oom-pah!  oom-pah!  Remember  that  while  a 
shot-gun  makes  a  lot  more  noise  than  a  rifle  it  just  messes 
things  up.  Aim  the  rifle  well  and  you  get  a  nice  clean  hole 
.  .  .  oom-pah!  oom-pah!  The  most  popular  dinner  guest  in 
Jerusalem  .  .  .  oom-pah!  oom-pah!  Every  occupation  has 
its  special  satisfactions.  The  architect  and  the  builder  see  the 
product  of  their  planning  take  shape  in  steel  and  stone.  The 
surgeon  snatches  life  from  the  jaws  of  death.  The  teacher  and 
the  minister  give  conviction  and  power  to  the  things  that 
are  unseen.  Our  calling  is  not  less  significant.  We  build  of 
imperishable  materials,  we  who  work  with  words.  .  .  .  All 
things  perish,  but  the  word  remains  .  .  .  oom-pah!  oom- 
pah!  oom-pah!  oom-pah!  oom-pah!  .  .  ." 

They  are  dead  men.  Their  bones  are  bakelite.  Their  blood 
is  water,  their  flesh  is  pallid — yes,  prick  them  and  they  do  not 
bleed.  Their  eyes  are  veiled  and  sad  or  staring  and  a  little 
mad.  From  them  comes  an  acrid  odor — they  do  not  notice  it, 


it  may  be  only  the  ozone  discharge  of  the  machine  itself* 
When  you  ask  them  to  tell  you  what  they  are  doing,  they  do 
not  know,  or  at  least  they  cannot  tell  you.  They  are  voice- 
less, indeed,  self-less — only  the  machine  speaks  through  them 
....  Dead  men  tell  no  tales. 

Most  are  like  that.  But  here  and  there  among  those  dim 
wraiths  is  one  who  still  keeps  some  semblance  of  life.  An  ar- 
tist, or  perhaps  one  who  would  have  been  a  scholar  or  a 
scientist  but  that  he  has  suffered  the  spleen  of  an  ill  fate.  Art 
and  science  are  strong  passions.  Most  of  these  exceptional  ones 
become  in  time  like  the  others.  But  they  are  the  stronger 
spirits  and  now  and  then  one  of  them  escapes.  They  do  not 
like  to  talk  of  what  they  have  seen  and  done  there  at  the 
heart  of  the  machine.  They  like  to  pretend  that  it  never 
happened;  that  it  was  a  kind  of  nightmare,  as  indeed  it  was. 
But  when  tales  are  told  it  is  they  who  tell  them.  From  time 
to  time  Sherwood  Anderson  has  told  such  tales.  Recently  he 
has  begun  to  tell  more  of  them.  They  are  quite  horrible  tales. 
Artists  find  it  difficult  to  use  this  material.  The  advertising 
business  is  harder  to  write  about  than  the  war.  It  would  per- 
haps bring  some  of  the  dead  back  to  life  if  more  of  such 
tales  were  told. 

But  the  machine  tenders  are  not  the  only  dead.  Great  waves 
of  force  shudder  outward  from  the  machine,  and  more  and 
more  this  cold  electric  force  substitutes  for  the  life-force  of 
the  people  whom  the  waves  surround  and  penetrate.  They  too 
seem  to  lose  the  color  and  movement  of  natural  human  life. 
They  twitch  with  little  fears  and  itch  with  little  greeds. 
They  become  nervous,  jittery,  mechanical.  They  can  no  longer 
weep  with  spontaneous  tears  or  rock  with  spontaneous  laugh- 
ter. They  too  become  in  a  sense  self -less  so  that  one  cannot 
expect  them  to  be  true  to  themselves  or  true  to  others.  The 
waves  which  increasingly  substitute  for  their  flagging  or- 
ganic will-to-live — the  waves  have  indeed  not  heard  of  this 
truth.  For  the  prime  mover  from  which  the  waves  come  is  be- 

yond  good  and  evil,  truth  and  untruth,  and  the  waves  are 
everywhere.  They  speak,  these  creatures,  their  lips  move,  but 
again  it  is  the  machine  speaking  through  them: 

.  .  .  "He  invented  the  foods  shot  from  guns  at  the  skin 
you  love  to  touch  but  your  best  friends  won't  tell  you  for 
three  out  of  five  are  facing  calendar  fear  another  day  of 
suspense  learn  to  be  charming  the  smart  point  of  view  with- 
out cost  grandpa  said  I'll  let  you  know  my  health  to  Quaker 
Oats  I  owe  upon  my  face  came  long  ago  the  smile  that  won't 
come  off  for  skin  eruptions  need  not  worry  you  guard  your 
dresses  spare  your  friends  perspiration  may  cost  you  both 
who'd  believe  they  called  me  skinny  4  months  ago  I  should 
think  she'd  notice  it  herself  in  closeups  you  can  trust  Blick's 
Velvasheen  a  better  mouthwash  at  a  big  saving  isn't  it  wonder- 
ful how  Mary  Ellen  won  the  $  5 ,000  beauty  contest  and  Mrs. 
Jones  wins  her  husband  back  at  the  foot  of  my  baby's  crib 
I  made  a  solemn  promise  the  girl  of  his  dreams  but  she  almost 
lost  him  in  a  month  she  didn't  have  a  trace  of  constipation 
reports  Dr.  David  of  Paris  what  color  nails  at  Newport  all 
shades  I'll  lose  my  job  if  this  keeps  up  can't  make  a  sale 
can't  even  get  people  to  see  me  I'd  better  ask  the  sales  man- 
ager what's  holding  me  back  couldn't  take  on  that  man  you 
just  sent  me  seemed  competent  but  careless  about  B.  O. 
what  a  fool  she  is  takes  pains  washing  a  sweater  gives  no  care 
to  her  teeth  and  gums  and  she  has  pink  toothbrush  Mae  West 
and  the  big  hat  she  wore  in  "She  Done  Him  Wrong"  who 
will  be  the  first  to  wear  it  in  Chicago  if  Mona  Lisa  could 
have  used  these  4  Rosaleen  eye  beauty  aids  let's  take  a  look 
at  the  record  toasting  frees  Lucky  Strike  cigarettes  from 
throat  irritation  William  T.  Tilden  II  steady  smokers  turn  to 
Camels  William  T.  Tilden  II  did  you  hear  the  French  na- 
tion decorates  Campbell's  soup  chef  for  sending  the  finest 
cooking  throughout  the  civilized  world  Yeow!  let's  run  away 
to  sea  travel  has  its  niceties.  .  .  ." 

This  sub-human  or  un-human  jabberwocky  saturates  the 


terrestrial  atmosphere.  It  pours  out  of  hundreds  of  thousands 
of  loud  speakers  from  eight  o'clock  in  the  morning  until 
midnight.  Doubtless  the  biologists  will  shortly  inform  us  that 
this  transformation  of  the  auditory  environment  has  caused 
definite  degeneration  and  malformation  of  the  average  Ameri- 
can ear.  Certainly  the  eyes  must  have  been  affected,  for  the 
same  jabberwocky  in  print  glares  from  the  pages  of  billions 
of  copies  of  magazines  and  newspapers  and  other  billions  of 
posters,  carcards  and  mail  communications.  Is  it  any  wonder 
that  the  American  population  tends  increasingly  to  speak, 
think,  feel  in  terms  of  this  jabberwocky?  That  the  stimuli  of 
art,  science,  religion  are  progressively  expelled  to  the  periphery 
of  American  life  to  become  marginal  values,  cultivated  by 
marginal  people  on  marginal  time?  That  these  marginal  peo- 
ple are  prevented  from  exercising  their  proper  and  necessary 
social  functions  except  by  permission  of  the  jabberwock? 
That  many  of  them  indeed  compromise  fatally  with  the  crea- 
ture and  translate  what  they  have  to  say  into  its  obscene 

Let  us  not  forget  that  the  jabberwock  feeds  on  what  it 
destroys  and  that  it  restores  and  replaces  nothing.  It  is  fueled 
by  the  organic  will-to-live  of  the  population,  which  it  calls 
"buying  power."  This  buying  power  is  progressively  ex- 
hausted— advertising  as  Veblen  pointed  out,  is  a  form  of 
sabotage  on  production — just  as  our  inorganic  resources  of 
coal,  oil  and  minerals  are  progressively  exhausted.  After  four 
depression  years  the  jabberwock  is  hungry.  It  has  devoured 
large  sections  of  the  lower  and  lower  middle  classes  and 
expelled  their  dry  bones,  burned  clean  of  their  buying  power, 
into  the  outer  darkness.  There  the  electric  breath  of  the 
jabberwock  still  plays  on  them,  but  they  are  ash  and  slag. 
They  cannot  burn,  they  cannot  feed  the  machine.  Fifteen 
million  of  them  are  dependent  upon  relief.  Another  thirty 
million  are  so  lean  that  they  can  fuel  the  jabberwock  scarcely 
at  all.  You  see  them  dumped  like  mail  sacks  on  park  benches. 


You  see  them  fluttering  like  autumn  leaves,  magnetized  into 
thin  wavering  lines — job  lines,  bread  lines.  They  sit  in  chilly 
rooms  listening  as  before  to  the  voice  of  the  jabberwock, 
unwilling  to  believe  that  they  have  been  consumed,  discarded. 
The  waves  still  pulsate  and  the  ash  of  the  great  radio  audience 
still  glows  a  little — there  is  so  little  other  food.  What  is  the 
jabberwock  saying  now?  ...  "I  will  share.  .  .  .  Don't  sell 
America  short.  .  .  .  Forward,  America.  .  .  ." 


I.  The  Command  to  Buy 

"FORWARD  America";  "I  have  shared";  "We  do  our  part." 
The  depression  slogans  of  both  the  Hoover  and  the  Roose- 
velt administrations  seem  to  imply  a  national  unity,  a  culture. 
The  people  are  to  be  "sold"  on  this  culture  as  a  part  of  the  task 
of  rehabilitating  it.  It  is  therefore  proper  to  examine  the  con- 
tent of  this  culture,  slightly  down  at  the  heels,  as  it  is,  in 
this  fifth  year  of  the  depression. 

For  this  purpose  the  evidence  provided  by  the  editorial, 
article,  fictional  and  advertising  contents  of  the  contemporary 
mass  and  class  magazines  is  extraordinarily  revealing.  We 
have  seen  that  the  press,  including  the  magazine  press,  is  used 
as  an  instrument  of  rule.  The  rulers  are  the  manufacturers, 
advertisers,  distributors,  financiers,  etc.,  who  use  not  merely 
the  magazine  advertisements  but  the  total  apparatus  of  this 
periodical  press  to  enforce  "the  command  to  buy."  This  rule 
is  exercised  both  by  direct  injunction  to  buy  and  by  the  pro- 
motion and  stimulus  of  emulative  and  snob  motivations, 
which  in  our  society  must  be  largely  satisfied  through  the 
purchase  and  display  of  things. 

With  the  motivations  and  technique  of  this  rule  clearly  in 
mind,  we  should  expect  to  find  a  treatment  of  sex,  economics, 
morals,  philosophy,  science,  etc. — designed  to  nourish  and 
stimulate  the  buying  motif.  We  find  all  of  this  and  more. 
We  find  what  amounts  to  a  conspiracy  of  silence  regarding  all 
those  aspects  of  the  individual  and  social  life  that  do  not  con- 


tribute  to  the  objective  of  the  advertiser,  which  is  practically 
identical  with  that  of  the  magazine  itself.  That  objective  is 
to  promote  sales  and  to  extend,  complicate  and  consolidate 
sheer  emulative  materialism  as  a  way  of  life.  We  venture  to 
say  that  no  one  who  has  not  attentively  examined  these  maga- 
zines inch  by  inch  can  conceive  the  astounding,  sterile  vacuity 
of  these  enormously  expensive  and  enormously  read  "culture- 

The  question  that  immediately  arises  is:  do  these  magazines 
accurately  reflect  the  culture  or  are  they  merely  trying  to  in- 
flict a  pseudoculture  on  their  readers?  In  a  curious  way  both 
things  are  true.  It  would  seem  that  both  the  culture  as  lived 
and  the  culture  as  reflected  by  the  magazines  are  pseudo- 
cultures.  Neither  in  life  nor  even  in  the  make-believe  of  the 
magazine  fictioneer  does  this  pseudoculture  satisfy  anybody. 
It  does  not  even  satisfy  the  wealthy,  who  can  afford  to  live 
according  to  the  snob,  acquisitive,  emulative  pattern.  The 
reductio  ad  absurdum  of  the  theory  of  a  self -sufficient  ac- 
quisitive culture  is  found  in  Arts  &  Decoration  which  bullies 
and  cajoles  the  rich  into  the  discharge  of  their  function  as 
the  ideal  human  representatives  of  a  culture  which  has  no 
content  or  meaning  outside  of  acquisition  and  display.  In 
arguing  for  this  way  of  life  a  writer  in  Arts  &  Decoration 
is  reduced  to  the  following  remarkable  bit  of  philosophic  yea- 
saying:  "Chromium  is  more  expensive  than  no  chromium." 

These  magazines  are  designed  and  edited  with  a  view  to 
making  the  readers  content  with  this  acquisitive  culture,  but 
even  a  commercial  fictioneer  has  to  put  up  a  human  "front." 
He  has  to  use  models.  He  has  to  exhibit,  however  super- 
ficially and  shabbily  the  kind  of  people  who  work  in  Ameri- 
can offices  and  factories  and  on  farms,  and  who  walk  the 
streets  of  American  cities  and  towns.  In  so  doing  he  inad- 
vertently and  inevitably  gives  the  whole  show  away.  He 
proves  that  these  robots  galvanized  by  pure  emulation  are 
fragile  puppets  of  glass.  Mostly  the  characters  are  faked. 


When  they  are  at  all  convincing  they  are  definitely  dissatis- 
fied and  unhappy. 

This  pseudoculture  which  is  both  reflected  and  promoted 
by  the  magazines  is  evidently  in  a  process  of  conflict  and 
change.  In  fact  it  may  be  said  that  there  are  two  cultures: 
the  older,  more  organic  American  culture,  and  the  new,  hard, 
arid  culture  of  acquisitive  emulation  pure  and  simple.  These 
cultures  are  in  perpetual  conflict.  The  emulative  culture  is 
what  the  magazine  lives  by;  the  older  more  human  culture  is 
what  the  reader  wistfully  desires.  However,  the  magazines 
can  afford  to  give  the  reader  only  a  modicum  of  these  warm 

The  problem  of  the  editor  is  essentially  similar  to  that  of 
the  advertising  copy  writer.  The  purpose  of  the  advertisement 
is  to  produce  consumers  by  suitable  devices  of  cajolement  and 
psychological  manipulation,  in  which  truth  is  used  only  in  so 
far  as  it  is  profitable  to  use  truth.  But  the  advertisement  must 
be  plausible.  It  must  not  destroy  the  reader-confidence  which 
the  copy  writer  is  exploiting. 

In  the  same  way  the  magazine  editor  may  be  thought  of 
as  producing,  in  the  total  editorial  and  fiction  content  of  the 
magazine,  a  kind  of  advertisement.  In  this  view  the  advertise- 
ment— say  in  issue  of  The  Woman's  Home  Companion — must 
have  some  human  plausibility;  it  must  contain  some  truth, 
some  reality,  otherwise  the  magazine  would  lose  circulation, 
i.  e.,  reader-confidence.  But  the  editor  must  never  forget  that 
the  serious  business  of  the  magazine  is  the  production  of  cus- 
tomers just  as  the  writer  of  the  individual  advertisement 
must  not  use  either  more  or  less  truth  and  decency  than  will 
produce  a  maximum  of  sales  for  his  client. 

We  examined  single  issues  of  thirteen  representative  and 
large  circulation  magazines  in  an  attempt  to  determine  the 
following  facts: 

i.)   Does  the  magazine  promote  buying,  not  only  in  the 


advertisements,  but  in  the  editorial,  article,  feature  and  fic- 
tion section  of  the  magazine? 

2.)  To  what  extent  do  the  magazines  permit  criticism  of 
the  acquisitive  culture? 

3.)  Since  literature,  even  popular  literature,  is  supposed  to 
reflect  a  culture,  what  kind  of  a  culture,  judged  by  the  con- 
tents of  these  thirteen  magazines,  have  we  got? 

The  thirteen  magazines  were  chosen  with  the  idea  of  having 
as  many  different  types  of  magazines  represented  as  possible. 
The  attempt  was  also  made  to  select  magazines  going  to  read- 
ers who  belong  to  different  income  classes.  Eight  of  the  maga- 
zines analyzed  have  over  one  million  circulation,  and  con- 
stitute over  a  third  of  the  twenty-one  magazines  in  the  United 
States  having  circulations  of  this  size.  The  list  of  magazines 
studied  is  as  follows: 


Name  of  Magazine     Circulation    Income 


American  Weekly*      5,581,000*  *  Low 

True  Story 


1,597,000  Low 

1,664,000  Low 

1,378,000  Medium 

518,000  Medium 

American  Magazine     2,162,000     Medium 


Illustrated  Hearst  Sun- 
day supplement. 
Confession  magazine. 
Woman's   magazine: 
rural  type. 
White-collar  class. 
Largest    circulation 
movie  magazine. 
Small-town,    small-city 

*  American  Weekly,  issue  of  Jan.  7,  1934;  True  Story,  Dec.  1933;  Household, 
Nov.  1933;  Liberty,  Dec.  23,  1933;  Photoplay,  Jan.  1934;  American  Magazine, 
Dec.  1933;  Woman's  Home  Companion,  Jan.  1934;  Cosmopolitan,  Dec.  1933; 
Saturday  Evening  Post,  Dec.  16,  1933;  Harper's  Bazaar,  Dec.  1933;  Harper's 
Magazine,  Jan.  1934;  Nation's  Business,  Nov.  1933;  Arts  &  Decoration,  Nov. 

** Publisher's  estimate. 


MAGAZINE  STUDY— (Continued) 

Name  of  Magazine     Circulation    Income 

Level  Type 

Woman's  Home 

Companion  2,235,000     Medium     Woman's    magazine: 

urban  type. 
Cosmopolitan  1,636,000     Medium     Urban  magazine:  much 

sex  fiction. 
Saturday  Evening 

Harper's  Bazaar 
Harper's  Magazine 

Nation's  Business 

Arts  &  Decoration 

2,295,000     Medium     Greatest    advertising 

medium  in  the  world. 

100,000      High          High  style  fashions. 

111,000  High  High-brow  and  sophis- 

214,000  High  Organ  of  the  Chamber 
of  Commerce  of  the 
U.  S. 

23,000     High          Interior  decoration  for 
the  rich. 


Our  analysis  shows  that  buying  is  promoted  not  only  in 
the  advertisements  but  in  the  fiction,  articles,  features,  and 
editorials.  A  Woman's  Home  Companion  story  mentions  a 
Rolls-Royce  eighteen  times.  Harper's  Bazaar  gives  free  public- 
ity in  its  article  section  to  532  stores  and  products.  The  snob 
appeal,  essentially  a  buying  appeal,  since  successful  snobbism 
depends  in  the  main  on  the  possession  of  things,  appears  in 
68  per  cent  of  the  subject  matter  of  one  magazine.  To  sum- 
marize: We  find  when  the  percentages  for  the  thirteen  maga- 
zines are  averaged,  that  30  per  cent  of  the  total  space  of  the 
magazines  is  devoted  to  advertisements,  and  13  per  cent  is 
devoted  to  editorial  promotion  of  buying.  Hence  43  per 
cent  of  the  space  in  these  magazines  is  devoted  to  commercial 


advertisements,  and  what  may  be  called  editorial  advertise- 
ments, combined.  We  find  also  that  snobbism  is  a  major  or 
minor  appeal  in  22  per  cent  of  the  subject  matter  of  the 

There  is  a  very  striking  correlation  between  the  amount 
of  space  devoted  to  promoting  buying  and  the  amount  of 
space  devoted  to  criticism  of  the  acquisitive  culture.  The  more 
space  a  magazine  devotes  to  promoting  buying  the  less  space 
it  devotes  to  instruction,  comment  or  criticism  concerning 
economic  and  political  affairs.  Four  of  the  thirteen  magazines 
do  not  mention  depression  or  recovery  at  all.  Only  two  maga- 
zines, True  Story  and  Liberty,  question  the  desirability  of 
the  capitalist  economy.  Only  two  magazines,  the  American 
and  Nation's  Business,  question  whether  it  can  be  permanently 
maintained.  In  summary  we  find  that:  (i)  No  criticism  of 
business  appears  in  any  editorial.  (2)  Some  criticism  of  the 
acquisitive  culture  appears  in  the  fiction.  (3)  Most  of  the 
criticism  of  existing  conditions  appears  in  articles  and  readers' 
letters.  (4)  The  thirteen  magazines  devote,  on  the  average, 
24  per  cent  of  their  editorial  and  article  space  to  supplying 
the  reader  with  information  about  economics,  politics,  and 
international  affairs.  (  5 )  The  women's  magazines,  which  rank 
highest  among  the  thirteen  magazines  in  respect  to  the  edi- 
torial promotion  of  buying,  rank  very  low  in  regard  to  com- 
ment on  economics,  politics,  and  international  affairs.  They 
devote,  on  the  average,  27  per  cent  of  their  space  to  editorial 
promotion  of  buying,  and  only  5  per  cent  of  their  space  to 
comment  on  affairs. 

The  following  conclusions  about  the  culture  reflected  in 
these  magazines  may  be  drawn: 

(1)  This  culture  displays  a  surplus  of  snobbism,  and  a 
deficiency  of  interest  in  sex,  economics,  politics,  religion,  art, 
and  science. 

(2)  The  United  States  does  not  have  one  homogeneous 
culture;  it  has  class  cultures.  Summarizing  the  findings  of  this 

study  in  relation  to  class  cultures,  one  may  say  that  the  cul- 
ture of  the  poor  shows  a  strong  bias  in  the  direction  of  fear 
and  sex,  that  the  culture  of  the  middle-class  displays  less 
sense  of  reality  than  the  culture  of  the  poor  or  the  rich,  and 
a  higher  degree  of  sexual  frigidity,  and  that  the  culture  of  the 
rich  tends  to  be  emulative  and  mercenary. 

An  analysis  of  58  fiction  heroines  in  45  sex  fiction  stories 
in  the  ten  magazines  containing  fiction  shows  the  following 
differences  between  the  heroines  who  appear  in  the  magazines 
of  the  poor,  the  middle  class,  and  the  rich.  In  the  magazines 
of  the  rich,  5 1  per  cent  of  the  heroines  are  mercenary.  In  the 
magazines  of  the  middle  class,  56  per  cent  of  the  heroines  are 
unawakened  or  unresponsive  women.  In  the  magazines  of  the 
poor,  45  per  cent  of  the  women  can  be  classified  as  being 
sexually  responsive.  The  number  of  babies  appertaining  to 
these  fiction  heroines  also  throws  interesting  light  on  our  class 
cultures.  In  magazine  fiction  as  in  life  the  poor  women  have 
the  largest  number  of  babies.  While  the  41  fiction  heroines  of 
the  middle-class  magazines  produce  only  three  children,  the 
eleven  fiction  heroines  of  the  magazines  of  the  poor  produce 

Further  distinctions  between  the  classes  appear  in  the  statis- 
tics on  emulation.  Emulation  is  the  dominant  appeal  in  the 
ads  of  six  magazines  which  go  to  readers  on  the  upper  income 
levels.  In  the  remaining  seven  magazines — the  magazines  of 
the  lower  income  levels — fear  is  the  dominant  appeal.  Emula- 
tion is  also  much  stronger  in  the  fiction  and  subject  matter  of 
the  magazines  of  the  upper  income  levels;  it  is,  in  fact,  almost 
twice  as  strong  as  in  the  magazines  of  the  poor.  In  the  lower 
income  group>  magazines,  17  per  cent  of  the  subject  matter 
has  emulation  as  a  major  or  minor  appeal;  in  the  upper  in- 
come magazines,  31  per  cent  of  the  subject  matter  features 

(3)   The   acquisitive  culture,   that   is  the   culture   which 
emphasizes  things  and  snobbism,  battles,  in  the  pages  of  these 


magazines,  with  an  older  tradition  and  culture,  in  which  sex, 
economics,  politics,  and  sentiment  play  major  roles.  The  ac- 
quisitive culture  is  dominant  in  five  magazines,  the  older 
culture  in  four  magazines,  while  in  the  remaining  four  maga- 
zines, the  two  cultures  co-exist  side  by  side.  One  may  say,  in 
summary,  that  the  acquisitive  culture  cannot  stand  on  its  own 
feet.  It  does  not  satisfy.  Except  in  the  fashion  magazines,  and 
in  some  of  the  women's  magazines,  it  has  to  be  offered  to  the 
reader  with  a  considerable  admixture  of  the  older  traditional 

(4)  Correlating  our  various  statistical  findings,  we  note 
that  the  acquisitive  culture  is  not  accessible  to  the  majority  of 
Americans;  also  that  it  is  not  popular  with  the  majority  of 
Americans.  The  American  population  apparently  has  a  sturdy 
realism  which  the  magazine  editors  are  forced  to  recognize. 
They  do  not  want  to  spend  their  time  reading  fairy  tales 
about  the  lives  of  the  rich.  What  they  prefer,  is  to  read  about 
heroes  and  heroines  who  are  exactly  one  rung  above  them  on 
the  economic  and  social  ladder,  a  rung  of  the  ladder  to  which 
they  themselves,  by  dint  of  luck,  accident,  or  hard  work, 
may  hope  to  climb  to. 

It  would  appear  that  the  acquisitive  culture  reflected  in 
these  magazines  is  a  luxury  product  designed  for  women  and 
the  rich.  The  focus  upon  women  is  because  of  their  position 
as  buyers  for  the  family.  The  success  of  the  emulative  sales 
promoting  technique  as  applied  to  middle-class  women  would 
appear  to  rest  upon  the  fact  that  these  women  are  restless, 
that  they  suffer  from  unsatisfied  romanticism,  and  that,  in 
many  cases,  they  probably  suffer  also  from  unhappiness  in 
their  marital  relations.  This  is  perhaps  the  most  significant 
finding  of  the  study  and  we  believe  the  reader  will  find  it 
amply  supported  by  the  detailed  evidence  adduced  in  the 
succeeding  chapters. 


II.   Chromium  is  More  Expensive 

Culture  is,  by  definition,  the  sum  total  of  the  human  en- 
vironment to  which  any  individual  is  exposed  and  the  test 
of  a  culture,  or  civilization,  in  terms  of  values  is  what  kind  of 
a  life  it  affords,  not  for  a  few  but  for  all  of  its  citizens. 

The  term  culture,  as  used  by  anthropologists,  ethnologists, 
and  social  scientists  generally,  does  not,  of  course,  coincide 
with  the  use  of  the  word  among  the  American  working- 
classes,  for  whom  it  constitutes  a  description  of  the  middle- 
class  culture  to  which  they  so  devoutly  aspire.  True  Story 
Magazine,  the  favorite  magazine  of  the  proletariat,  circula- 
tion 1,597,000,  has  a  story  about  a  poor  boy,  who  marries  a 
banker's  daughter  and  makes  good.  On  first  being  intro- 
duced into  the  banker's  house  he  says:  "It  was  my  first 
experience  in  a  home,  where  culture,  ease  and  breeding  were 
a  part  of  everyday  life."  Household  Magazine,  circulation 
2,006,000,  which  is  read  by  farm  and  small  town  women,  has 
a  page  of  advice  to  girls,  conducted  by  Gladys  Carrol  Hast- 
ings, author  of  As  the  Earth  Turns.  Miss  Hastings  describes 
how  a  daughter  of  the  rich  is  forced  because  of  the  depression 
to  live  on  a  farm  and  to  do  her  own  work.  Miss  Hastings 
says:  "I  choose  not  to  stress  how  tired  she  was  each  night 
.  .  .  how  she  longed  for  the  ease  and  culture  of  other  asso- 
ciations, how  little  her  few  neighbors  satisfied  her." 


The  popular  and  proletarian  use  of  the  word  "culture" 
points  to  a  significant  fact;  the  fact  that,  contrary  to  popular 
pre-war  conceptions,  we  do  have  classes  in  the  United  States, 
and  that  any  examination  of  our  present  American  culture 
will,  of  necessity,  break  up  into  an  examination  of  a  number 
of  class  cultures. 

Two  problems  face  the  would-be  examiner  of  contem- 


porary  American  culture.  The  first  is  to  ascertain  how  many 
classes  there  are  and  the  second  is  to  find  a  measuring  stick 
for  the  culture  of  each  of  these  different  classes.  Both  are  nice 

It  is  noteworthy  that  there  are  no  names,  used  in  ordinary 
speech  to  characterize  social  classes,  unless  "racketeer"  and 
"sucker"  can  be  considered  to  be  in  this  category.  In  which 
case  we  have  not  the  Marxian  antithesis  of  the  workers  versus 
the  bosses,  but  the  strictly  American  antithesis  of  suckers 
versus  racketeers,  complicated  by  the  fact  that  most  Ameri- 
cans are  racketeers  and  suckers  at  one  and  the  same  time. 
Workers  refer  to  themselves  as  "the  working-class  of  peo- 
ple," executives  discuss  the  white-collar  class,  ad-men  refer 
to  mass  and  class  publications,  fashion  analysts  study  the 
high,  medium,  popular,  and  low  style  woman.  Common  speech 
is  of  little  help  in  differentiating  such  social  classes  as  we 
have,  nor  are  the  professional  social  scientists  very  useful. 
With  the  exception  of  Veblen's  books  and  of  the  magnificent 
study  Middletown  made  by  the  Lynds  in  1927,  which  de- 
scribes minutely  the  culture  of  the  working  and  business 
classes  of  a  typical  American  city,  the  social  scientists  have 
added  very  little  of  any  importance  to  what  we  know  about 
the  stratification  of  the  American  population  and  about 
American  culture. 

The  most  valuable  sources  of  information  we  have  about 
the  economic  and  cultural  levels  of  the  American  population 
are  such  government  statistics  as  the  Army  intelligence  tests 
and  income-tax  returns,  and  the  unpublished  studies  of  con- 
sumer behavior  on  file  in  magazine  offices  and  in  advertising 
agencies.  One  of  the  best  of  these  studies  is  the  work  of 
Daniel  Starch.  This  study  divides  American  families  into  in- 
come groups,  computed  in  multiples  of  one-thousand  dollars. 
Since  this  chapter  expects  to  lean  somewhat  on  Mr.  Starch's 
researches,  it  will  for  the  sake  of  brevity  divide  Americans 
into  three  economic  classes,  each  of  which  proves  on  exam- 


ination  to  have  a  fairly  distinct  cultural  pattern.  Without 
bothering  about  exact  names  for  these  classes,  since  no  idio- 
matic or  exact  names  exist,  we  may  refer  to  them  briefly  as 
the  rich,  the  middle  class  and  the  poor. 

The  poor,  those  having  incomes  of  less  than  $2,000  a  year, 
constituted  in  1925,  seventy-seven  per  cent  of  the  population. 
Most  of  them  live  below  the  minimum  comfort  level.  The 
richest  members  of  this  class  can  afford  a  minimum  health 
and  decency  standard  of  living;  the  poorer  members  of  this 
class  cannot.  During  our  most  prosperous  years,  from  1922 
to  1929,  the  majority  of  Americans  were  living  on  less  than 
70  per  cent  of  the  minimum  health  and  decency  budgets 
worked  out  by  the  United  States  Government  bureaus.  Life- 
long economic  security  is  rare.  This  class  is  not  of  much  in- 
terest to  advertisers  or  editors.  The  Daniel  Starch  studies 
show  that  only  34  per  cent  of  the  circulation  of  twenty 
women's  magazines  goes  to  this  group. 

The  middle  class,  those  having  incomes  between  $2,000 
and  $5,000  a  year  can  afford  comforts.  Severe  ill-health  or 
prolonged  depression  periods,  to  mention  only  two  of  the 
most  important  causes,  can  ruin  the  economic  security  of 
middle-class  families.  Nevertheless,  it  may  be  said  that  life- 
long economic  security  is  within  the  grasp  of  some  of  the 
more  fortunate  and  thrifty  members  of  this  class. 

The  rich,  those  having  incomes  of  over  $5,000  a  year,  are 
the  class  that  pays  income  taxes.  Even  the  poorest  enjoy 
comforts  and  a  few  luxuries.  With  the  richer  members  of  this 
class,  economic  security  becomes  a  possibility,  and  is,  in  a 
considerable  percentage  of  cases,  attained. 

There  remains  the  problem  of  finding  a  measuring  stick 
with  which  to  measure  the  culture  of  these  three  classes;  the 
poor,  the  middle  class,  and  the  rich.  Culture  has  many  as- 
pects; it  is  necessary  within  the  space  of  this  book  to  select 
one  of  these  aspects.  Clark  Wissler,  the  well-known  anthro- 
pologist, says  in  his  book  Man  and  Culture:  "The  study  of 


culture  has  come  to  be  regarded  more  and  more,  in  recent 
decades,  as  the  study  of  modes  of  thought,  and  of  tradition, 
as  well  as  of  modes  of  action  or  customs."  It  is  the  modes  of 
thought  that  concern  us  in  this  chapter.  It  is  more  difficult 
to  find  out  what  people  are  thinking  than  to  discover  what 
they  are  doing,  but  it  is  also  more  fascinating. 


The  public's  response  to  an  art  offers,  perhaps,  the  best 
clue  as  to  what  is  going  on  in  people's  minds.  There  are,  as 
it  happens,  three  popular  arts  in  the  United  States,  which  are 
enjoyed  to  some  extent  by  all  classes;  they  are  the  press,  the 
talkies  and  the  radio.  The  talkies  probably  have  most  influ- 
ence, but  the  press  is  for  obvious  reasons  easier  to  examine  and 
measure;  it  is  a  better  statistical  foil.  Moreover,  in  our  maga- 
zine-press, in  which  each  magazine  is  to  some  extent  aimed 
at  a  particular  class  of  readers,  our  class  culture  is  more  ac- 
curately reflected  than  in  either  the  talkies  or  in  radio  pro- 

The  only  serious  drawback  to  using  the  magazine-press  as 
a  measuring  stick  for  the  culture  of  our  three  arbitrarily 
selected  classes  is  that  a  considerable  section  of  the  wage-earn- 
ing class,  who  constitute  over  75  per  cent  of  the  population, 
do  not  read  magazines  very  much  because  they  cannot  afford 
them.  Mr.  Starch's  studies  show  that  the  most  popular  mag- 
azine of  the  rich,  The  Saturday  Evening  Post,  is  read  by  6j 
per  cent  of  all  the  families  having  over  $5,000  a  year,  while 
True  Story,  the  most  popular  magazine  among  the  proletariat, 
is  read  by  only  14  per  cent  of  all  the  families  having  under 
$2,000  a  year.  Of  the  14  per  cent  who  read  True  Story,  over 
two-thirds  have  incomes  of  $1,000  to  $2,000  a  year,  while 
approximately  one-third  have  incomes  of  $1,000  a  year,  or 

The  extent  to  which  the  magazines  do  and  do  not  reflect 


the  culture  of  any  specific  economic  class  is  shown  in  the 
following  chart,  based  on  Mr.  Starch's  figures.  The  reader 
will  observe  that  all  of  the  magazines  cited  have  circulations 
in  all  three  economic  classes,  and  that  most  of  the  circulation 
lies  in  the  middle-class  group.  To  find  magazines  which  rep- 
resent the  rich  as  versus  the  middle  class,  it  is  necessary  to 
seek  examples  among  the  so-called  class  magazines.  On  this 
chart,  three  magazines;  Harper's  Bazaar,  Harper's  Magazine, 
and  Arts  &  Decoration,  belong  to  the  class  magazine  group. 
Each  of  these  magazines  has  over  45  per  cent  of  its  circula- 
tion among  the  rich.  In  order  to  strengthen  our  sample  of 
magazines  catering  to  the  rich,  another  class  magazine,  Na- 
tion's Business,  has  been  added  to  the  list  of  magazines  to  be 


The  number  of  magazines  which  might  be  said  to  appeal 
in  the  main  to  the  poor,  and  which  also  have  large  circula- 
tions, is  disappointingly  small.  Only  two  magazines,  True 
Story,  which  is  proletarian  in  flavor,  and  Household,  which 
is  not,  have  over  one-third  of  their  readers  among  the  poor. 
In  seeking  to  fortify  the  number  of  magazines  which  might 
be  expected  to  reflect  the  culture  of  the  poor,  two  maga- 
zines were  added  to  the  list;  The  American  Weekly,  the  il- 
lustrated Hearst  Sunday  supplement,  which  has  one  of  the 
largest  circulations  of  any  periodical  in  the  country,  and 
Photoplay,  the  largest  circulation  movie  magazine.  Examina- 
tion proved  however  that  Photoplay  is  probably  to  be  con- 
sidered as  a  middle-class  magazine. 

It  might  be  noted  in  passing  that,  in  the  main,  the  poor 
have  no  press.  We  have  discovered  no  large  circulation  mag- 
azine which  has  over  45  per  cent  of  its  circulation  among 
the  poor.  One  suspects  that  magazines  like  True  Story  cater  to 



Middle  Clue 

MASAZINE        Art*  And  Decoration 
KEADERS:         Harper's  Magazine 

Harper's  Bazaar 

Saturday  Evening  Po«t 



American  Magazine 
Woman's  Home  Companion 



True  Story 

•AWFULLY    EMPLOYED,    1919 


$  5  ,000  and  over 



the  one -tenth  of  the  working-class  consisting  of  organized 
and  skilled  workers  who  can  afford  some  comforts.  One  sus- 
pects further  that  the  other  nine-tenths  of  the  wage  as  versus 
salary  earners,  although  they  may  read  the  magazines,  have, 
strictly  speaking,  no  large  circulation  press  at  all. 



The  advertising  business  has  frequently  been  defined  in 
this  book  as  consisting  of  the  newspaper  and  magazine  press, 
the  radio,  the  advertising  agencies,  and  a  considerable  section 
of  the  talkie,  paper,  and  printing  industries.  To  the  magazine 
editor  and  the  ad-man  a  magazine  consists  of  two  parts:  ad- 
vertisements and  filler.  The  filler  is  designed  to  carry  the 
advertisements.  With  rare  exceptions,  no  way  has  so  far  been 
discovered  of  getting  the  public  to  pay  for  advertisements 
presented  without  filler.  Hence  the  filler. 

This  strictly  commercial  point  of  view  of  the  magazine 
editor,  the  circulation  manager,  and  the  ad-man  is  not  the 
reader's  point  of  view.  The  reader  thinks  of  a  magazine  in 
terms  of  fiction,  articles,  features,  editorials,  and  advertise- 
ments. While  he  seldom  buys  the  magazine  for  the  ads,  he 
may  enjoy  certain  ads  even  more  than  he  enjoys  the  contents 
of  the  periodical.  In  addition  to  hunting  out  the  particular 
things  in  the  magazine  which  appeal  to  him  as  an  individual, 
or  which  he  hopes  to  find  tolerably  palatable,  he  is  more  or 

(less  aware  of  the  personality  of  the  magazine.  Its  slant  on 
things  is  as  well  known  to  him  as  the  slant  of  a  family  friend, 
and  although  he  may  not  agree  with  the  slant,  he  enjoys 
savoring  of  it.  From  the  reader's  point  of  view,  therefore, 
one  can  add  at  least  one  more  category  to  the  commercial 
categories  of  the  editor  and  ad-man.  One  can  say  that  the 
magazine  consists  not  only  of  advertisements  and  filler,  but 
that  it  also  has  an  editorial  element,  that  there  is  in  fact,  in 
most  cases,  a  certain  editor-reader  relation,  which  the  reader 
is  quite  cognizant  of. 

(That  the  editor-reader  relation,  just  referred  to,  exists  not 
only  in  the  mind  of  the  reader,  but  in  the  mind  of  the 
editor  as  well,  is  shown  by  the  following  statement  made  by 
Gertrude  B.  Lane,  assistant  editor  of  Woman's  Home  Com- 


panion.  In  a  memorandum  stating  her  objections  to  the  Tug- 
well  Bill,  Miss  Lane  says: 

"I  admit  quite  frankly  that  my  selfish  interests  are  involved.  I 
have  spent  thirty  years  of  my  life  building  up  a  magazine  which  I 
have  tried  to  make  of  real  service  to  the  women  of  America,  and 
I  have  invested  all  my  savings  in  the  company  which  publishes  this 
magazine.  The  magazine  business  and  the  newspapers,  rightly  or 
wrongly,  have  been  made  possible  through  national  advertising. 
Great  industries  have  been  developed  and  millions  of  people  em- 

Miss  Lane's  angle  is  interesting.  Is  advertising  perhaps  the 
culture,  the  swamp-muck,  if  you  will,  that  exists  to  nourish 
this  lily  of  service?  If  Miss  Lane  is  correct,  the  question  that 
will  interest  the  magazine  reader  is  not  how  thick  is'  the  muck, 
but  how  tall  and  fragrant  is  the  lily?  An  examination  of  the 
January,  1934,  issue  of  Woman's  Home  Companion  will 
perhaps  answer  this  question. 


In  looking  for  the  service-angle  suggested  by  Miss  Lane, 
the  writers  felt  that  a  correct  estimate  of  the  amount  of 
service  rendered  the  reader  could  perhaps  best  be  found  in 
editorials  and  articles,  rather  than  in  the  fiction.  Fiction  was 
also  considered  in  relation  to  service,  and  the  results  will  be 
referred  to  later  in  this  chapter.  The  concentration  on  edi- 
torials and  articles  proved,  however,  to  offer  the  most  useful 
index  of  service.  The  issue  of  the  Woman's  Home  Compan- 
ion examined  contained  in  its  editorials  and  articles  three 
items  which  could  be  listed  under  this  head. 

Item  I.  Article  "What  Mothers  Want  To  Know"  (5^  inches). 
The  writer,  a  physician,  starts  out  by  saying:  "I-  wonder  if  we  city 
doctors  write  about  the  things  that  mothers  want  to  know.  At 


least  sixty  per  cent  of  the  mothers'  letters  received  by  Woman's 
Home  Companion  come  from  small  cities,  towns,  or  rural  com- 
munities, which  have  practically  no  modern  facilities,  no  hospitals 
or  clinics  for  babies,  well  or  sick,  no  pediatrists.  Many  of  the  let- 
ters are  pathetic." 

Item  II.  Editorial  "The  Mighty  Effort"  (8  inches).  This  edi- 
torial urges  Americans  to  support  President  Roosevelt's  program. 
The  dangers  of  this  program  can,  in  the  opinion  of  the  editors  be 
avoided,  "if  the  true  American  spirit  prevails."  The  true  American 
spirit  consists  in  moderation.  Owen  D.  Young  is  quoted  as  saying: 
"We  must  watch  them  that  threaten  us,  both  from  inaction  and 
over-action,  not  that  we  may  punish  them,  but  that  we  may  pre- 
vent them  from  ruining  us  and  themselves  as  well.  It  is  unneces- 
sary for  producers  to  unite  into  a  trust  ...  it  is  unnecessary  for 
labor  to  unite  in  unions  ...  it  is  unnecessary  for  consumers  to 
unite  in  such  a  way  as  to  threaten  savings  and  labor  employed  in 

Item  III.  Letter.  Signed,  C.  R.  J.,  Oregon,  entitled  by  the  edi- 
tors, "Sensible  Protest  Against  Frills"  (8l/z  inches).  Criticizes  the 
home  economics  classes  attended  by  country  and  small  town  chil- 
dren, in  which  the  pupils  are  taught:  "How  to  give  orders  to  a 
maid  and  butler  ...  to  put  fancy  frills  on  a  chop  bone,  and  to 
cook  steaks."  The  writer  notes  that  most  of  the  parents  of  these 
children  afford  steaks  and  chops  very  rarely,  and  makes  sensible 
suggestions  as  to  what  a  home  economics  course  for  country  chil- 
dren should  contain. 

Of  the  1,404  inches  devoted  to  editorials  and  articles,  22 
inches,  or  about  two-thirds  of  a  page,  is  devoted  to  service. 
But  the  lily  of  service  which  raises  its  pure  head  in  a  naughty 
world  should  not  be  measured  in  inches  or  percentages  alone. 
What  does  the  two-thirds  of  a  page  devoted  to  service  in  the 
Woman's  Home  Companion  net  the  reader?  A  reader  makes 
a  sensible  statement,  so  sensible  that  one  concludes  that  it 
might  be  an  excellent  thing  for  editors  to  turn  over  their 
editorial  space  to  their  shrewder  readers.  As  far  as  the  editors 
are  concerned  they  have  only  two  things  to  say  to  the  reader. 

First:  In  a  general  editorial  about  recovery,  they  point  out 
to  their  readers,  who  are  consumers,  that  "it  is  unnecessary 
for  consumers  to  unite  in  such  a  way  as  to  threaten  savings 
and  labor  employed  in  production."  In  suggesting  that  its 
readers  do  not  become  politically  active  as  consumers,  the 
Companion  would  seem  to  be  serving  its  own  interests  rather 
than  those  of  its  readers.  Second:  They  promise  in  the  future 
to  help  the  women  living  in  small  towns  with  their  maternity 
problems.  Excellent  as  this  is,  a  promise  of  service  does  not 
constitute  a  service.  If  the  Woman's  Home  Companion  ful- 
fills its  promise,  this  fulfillment  will  constitute  a  genuine 
service  to  the  reader. 

Examination  of  the  other  twelve  magazines  selected  for 
study  is  somewhat  more  reassuring  than  examination  of  the 
Woman's  Home  Companion.  The  service  element  of  the 
other  magazines  as  measured  by  the  editorials  and  articles 
ranges  as  high  as  88  or  79  per  cent  in  contrast  with  the 
Woman's  Home  Companion's  1.5  per  cent.  The  complete 
list  of  space  devoted  to  service  is  as  follows:  Saturday  Eve- 
ning Post,  88  per  cent;  Nation's  Business,  79  per  cent;  Ameri- 
can Magazine,  41  per  cent;  Harper's  Magazine,  37  per  cent; 
Cosmopolitan,  28  per  cent;  Liberty,  24  per  cent;  True  Story, 
1 6  per  cent;  Household  Magazine,  u  per  cent;  Harper's 
Bazaar,  2  per  cent;  Woman's  Home  Companion,  i.y  per 
cent;  American  Weekly,  .7  per  cent;  Photoplay,  o;  Arts  & 
Decoration,  o. 


To  make  sure  that  we  are  doing  justice  to  the  Woman's 
Home  Companion,  it  might  be  well  to  state  at  this  point 
what  items  the  writers  have  considered  to  have  a  service  angle. 
An  examination  of  the  thirteen  selected  magazines  caused  the 
writers  to  re-define  service  as  sophistication,  and  specifically 


sophistication    about    economic    and    political    affairs.    Four 
kinds  of  items  were  included  under  Sophistication: 

1)  Any  reference  to  recovery  or  depression  was  considered  to 
constitute  sophistication,  since  it  may  be  considered  an  index  of 
interest  in  reality  as  opposed  to  fantasy. 

2)  Any  recognition  that  an  economic  or  political  situation  was 
complex  rather  than  simple  was  also  considered  to  constitute  so- 
phistication.  A   mention  of  three   or  four  factors   in   a  situation 
rather  than  one  or  two  was  considered  to  be  complex  as  opposed 
to  simple. 

3)  Any  facts  which  did  not  bear  directly  on  the  financial  or 
emulative  interest  of  the  specific  class  of  readers  to  whom  the  mag- 
azine  is    addressed,    were   considered    to   constitute    sophistication. 
Note:  Only  two  or  three  examples  were  found. 

4)  Any  criticism  or  satire  of  our  contemporary  culture  and 
society  which  might  be  considered  to  apply  not  to  a  specific  insti- 
tution but  to  the  society  as  a  whole. 

The  standards  set  up  as  sophistication  are  not  high.  Any 
truly  sophisticated  presentation  of  an  economic  or  political 
situation  would  usually  have  to  cover  more  than  three  or 
four  factors  in  the  situation.  Many  of  the  articles  in  the 
Saturday  Evening  "Post,  Nation's  Business,  and  in  such  maga- 
zines as  the  Nation,  New  Republic,  and  Fortune,  rate  well 
above  this  three-or-four-factors-in-a-situation  level.  It  has 
been  the  effort  of  the  writers  to  include  under  sophistication 
everything  which  could  possibly  be  included  under  this  cat- 
egory. Most  if  not  all  of  the  rays  of  hope,  inspiration  or  com- 
fort extended  to  the  readers  by  the  editors  it  has  been  pos- 
sible to  pick  up  under  one  of  the  four  categories  used. 

When  the  results  of  the  sophistication  survey  are  averaged, 
it  is  found  that  the  average  magazine  devotes  24.4  per  cent 
of  its  editorial  and  article  space  to  making  the  contemporary 
economic  and  political  world  which  so  notably  affects  the 
destinies  of  its  readers  somewhat  comprehensible.  The  amount 

of  sophistication  is  clearly  one  of  the  important  elements  in 
the  editor-reader  relation  of  the  magazine.  The  extent  to 
which  the  sophistication  element  in  each  of  the  magazines 
studied  has  vitality  or  sincerity,  will  be  considered  when  the 
contents  of  individual  magazines  are  described. 

The  sophistication  survey  shows  one  notable  fact;  that 
magazines  specifically  for  women  are  low  in  respect  to  so- 
phistication. Remembering  that  24  per  cent  is  the  sophistica- 
tion average  for  thirteen  magazines,  consider  the  degree  of 
sophistication  of  the  following  magazines  catering  mainly  to 
women:  Household  Magazine,  n  per  cent;  Harper's  Bazaar, 
2  per  cent;  Woman's  Home  Companion,  1.5  per  cent;  Photo- 
play, o;  and  Arts  &  Decoration,  o.  Harper's  Bazaar,  a  fashion 
magazine;  Photoplay,  a  movie  magazine;  and  Arts  &  Decora- 
tion, an  interior  decoration  magazine,  are,  of  course,  special- 
ized magazines,  with  no  interest  in  economics  or  politics. 
Nevertheless,  the  line-up  seems  to  have  some  significance. 
Contrast  the  women's  magazine  sophistication  record,  for 
example,  with  the  sophistication  record  of  the  magazines 
which  have  an  exclusive  or  heavy  male  readership;  Saturday 
Evening  Post,  88  per  cent;  Nation's  Business,  79  per  cent; 
and  the  American  Magazine,  41  per  cent.  The  claim  that  the 
contents  of  women's  magazines  reflect  the  provincialism  and 
low  intellectual  status  of  women  was  made  in  an  article  in 
the  December,  13,  1933,  issue  of  the  New  Republic.  This 
article  provoked  a  spirited  rebuttal  from  no  less  a  person 
than  Carolyn  B.  Ulrich,  Chief  of  the  Periodicals  Division  of 
the  New  York  Public  Library,  New  York  City.  Miss  Ulrich 
says,  among  other  things: 

"Who  are  the  owners  and  editors  of  women's  magazines?  You 
will  find  that  men  predominate  in  the  executive  offices  and  on  their 
editorial  staffs.  Would  it  not  appear  that  we  are  still  bound  to  what 
men  think  desirable?  Is  that  what  most  women  want?  And  are  not 
these  magazines  really  mediums  for  salesmanship,  almost  trade 


journals?  Of  the  first  importance  in  these  magazines  is  the  adver- 
tising. The  subject  matter  comes  second.  The  advertisements  pay 
for  the  producing  of  the  magazine.  The  subject  matter,  aside  from 
a  few  sentimental  stories,  covers  those  interests  that  belong  to 
woman's  sphere.  There,  also,  the  purpose  is  to  foster  buying  for  the 
home  and  child.  The  entire  plan  of  these  magazines  is  based  on  the 
man's  interest  in  its  commercial  success." 


In  one  of  Miss  Ulrich's  sentences,  we  find  the  clue  to  the 
nature  and  character  of  our  present  women's  magazines. 
Miss  Ulrich  says:  "The  subject  matter  .  .  .  stories  aside, 
covers  those  interests  that  belong  to  woman's  sphere.  There, 
also,  the  purpose  is  to  foster  buying."  Miss  Ulrich  is  correct. 
If  the  contents  of  the  women's  magazines  are  examined,  it 
will  be  found  that  the  editors  devote  from  48  to  15  per  cent 
of  the  total  contents  of  the  magazine  to  ballyhooing  certain 
classes  of  products  or  specifically  named  products;  in  short, 
to  peddling  something  over  the  counter,  just  as  advertise- 
ments do.  The  five  magazines  catering  mainly  to  women, 
which  rank  very  much  below  the  average  in  respect  to  so- 
phistication, rank  highest  in  respect  to  the  amount  of  editorial 
space  devoted  to  salesmanship.  The  proportion  of  the  total 
space  in  the  women's  magazines  devoted  to  editorial  adver- 
tising is  as  follows:  Arts  &  Decoration,  48  per  cent;  Harper's 
Bazaar,  34  per  cent;  Photoplay,  24  per  cent;  Household,  18 
per  cent;  Woman's  Home  Companion,  15  per  cent.  Harper's 
Bazaar  devotes  26  of  its  non-advertising  pages  to  mentioning 
the  names  of  523  stores  and  products. 

The  nature  and  character  of  our  women's  magazines  be- 
comes clear  if  one  realizes  that  in  these  magazines  the  editor- 
reader  relation  has  been  perverted.  Where  this  relation  has 
vitality  and  sincerity,  the  readers  get  from  the  magazine 
something  not  wholly  commercial.  They  do  not  merely  get 


enough  filler  or  entertainment  to  make  them  swallow  the 
advertising;  they  are  given  something  definite  and  humanly 
valuable,  a  friendly  relation  to  the  editor,  who  is  or  should 
be,  from  the  reader's  point  of  view,  a  person  whose  specific 
job  it  is  to  know  more  about  affairs  in  general  than  the 
reader  can  take  time  to  know.  An  editor's  analysis  of  a  situa- 
tion, his  judgment  about  it,  have  some  weight  with  the 
reader,  just  as  a  friend's  analysis  of  a  situation  and  judgment 
about  it  have.  However,  where  the  editor-reader  relation  is 
perverted,  as  in  the  women's  magazines,  the  editor  does  not 
give  the  reader  something;  he  takes  something  away  from  the 
reader.  It  is  a  case  of  the  right  hand  giveth  and  the  left  hand 
taketh  away.  The  left  hand  of  the  editor  takes  away  from  the 
reader  part  of  the  non-advertising  or  subject  matter  space  of 
the  magazine  which  is  presumably  what  the  reader  pays  for, 
and  devotes  it  to  editorial  advertising.  The  right  hand  of  the 
editor  gives  the  reader  something  humanly  valuable;  sophis- 
tication. In  the  five  magazines  catering  primarily  to  women, 
as  the  accompanying  chart  shows,  the  editorial  left  hand,  the 
hand  which  takes,  is  the  active  hand. 


Editorial  advertising  in  the  accompanying  chart  includes 
three  categories.  In  the  order  of  their  importance,  that  is,  in 
the  order  of  the  amount  of  space  devoted  to  them,  they  are  as 

Item  i:     Pushing  of  advertised  products. 

Item  2:     Pushing  of  sales  of,  or  subscriptions  to  the  magazine. 

Item  3:  Editorials  or  articles,  pushing  buying  in  general,  or 
pushing  the  buying  of  certain  classes  of  products,  which  may  or 
mav  not  appear  in  the  magazine's  advertisements. 

Of  the  total  space  of  the  thirteen  magazines,  10.9  per  cent 
is,  on  the  average,  devoted  to  pushing  products;  2.6  per  cent 






I    0.8% 


Liber  ty 

Saturday  Evening  Post 
Nation's  Business 
American  Magazine 
American  Weekly 

is  devoted  to  pushing  the  magazine;  and  one  per  cent  to  push- 
ing buying  generally.  House  ads,  pushing  the  sale  of  the 
magazine  are  familiar,  and  hardly  need  illustration.  The  push- 
ing of  advertised  products  is  also  more  or  less  familiar.  A  few 
examples  will  probably  suffice: 

Artificial  Silks 

"I  sometimes  think  the  women  of  today  aren't  sufficiently  thank- 
ful for  or  appreciative  of  the  fabric  marvels  which  are  theirs.  .  .  . 
As  a  miracle,  for  instance,  doesn't  artificial  silk  answer  every  re- 
quirement of  the  word?"  (True  Story:  "Sheer  Fabrics  That  Would 
Make  Cleopatra  Jealous.") 


Oil  Heaters 

"Where  lack  of  a  basement  makes  installation  of  the  usual  type 
of  cellar  plant  impossible  .  .  .  there  are  heat  cabinets  available. 
.  .  .  With  one  of  these  oil  heaters  in  a  room,  the  old  fire-building, 
stove-nursing,  ash-carrying,  half -warmed  days  are  over."  (True 
Story:  "Is  Your  Home  Old-Fashioned  in  Its  Heating  Apparatus?") 

Canned  Meats 

"In  looking  around  to  see  just  what  I  could  discover  in  canned 
meats  and  chickens,  I  found  great  variations  in  the  size  of  their 
containers."  (Household  Magazine:  "A  Short  Cut  to  Meats — The 

Condensed  Milk 

"She  (my  grandmother)  tried  cow's  milk,  the  best  she  could 
obtain,  but  without  any  improvement.  In  desperation  she  finally 
tried  a  spoonful  of  the  new  condensed  milk,  a  recent  invention  that 
a  newcomer  in  the  gold  camp  had  brought  from  the  East.  The  baby 
loved  it."  (True  Story:  "From  My  Grandmother's  Diary.") 

Electric  Lamps 

"She  spent  many  months  of  patient  searching  for  just  the  right 
lamps  at  just  the  right  prices.  Lamps  that  would  give  the  perfect 
angle  of  light.  .  .  ."  (Woman's  Home  Companion:  "A  Healthful 


"No  place  in  the  world  has  such  sparkle  as  New  York  at  this 
time  of  year.  Come  for  the  fun  of  shopping  ...  to  see  the  new 
ballets  ...  to  enjoy  the  restaurant  life  of  these  new  days  of  the 
wine  list.  .  .  .  For  help  in  choosing  your  hotel,  write  to  the  Travel 
Bureau."  (Harper's  Bazaar:  "New  York  at  Christmas.") 

Tea  Table  Accessories 

"All  of  our  social  existence  is  tied  up  in  a  few  familiar  rituals. 
A  hostess  is  known  by  her  tea  tables  and  dinner  tables.  Marriages 
and  births  and  political  victories  and  personal  achievements  are 

celebrated  there.  .  .  .  Occasionally  something  definite  and  perma- 
nent arises  phoenix-like  from  a  passing  mode.  Lines  that  appeared 
as  startling  innovations  on  the  tea  tray  of  some  smart  hostess  grad- 
ually become  familiar  in  decorative  treatment  and  in  architecture. 
So  a  new  style  is  created."  (Arts  &  Decoration:  "A  Portfolio  of 
Modern  Accessories.") 

Somewhat  more  subtle  and  interesting  are  editorials  and 
advertisements  pushing  buying  generally,  or  the  buying  of 
certain  classes  of  products. 

"A  Call  to  Colors  for  the  American  Male" 

"The  pioneering  hard-fisted,  hard-boiled  American  Male  will  cheer 
campaign  speeches  on  the  benefits  of  rugged  individualism  and 
whistle  laissez  faire,  whenever  he  has  to  keep  up  his  courage  in  a 
financial  crisis.  He  will  grow  turgidly  eloquent  on  the  benefits 
both  to  himself  and  society  of  doing  just  as  he  sees  fit  when  and  if 
he  pleases.  He  will  battle  to  his  last  breath  against  any  code  pre- 
scribing a  uniform  way  of  running  his  business,  auditing  his  ac- 
counts, educating  his  children  or  divorcing  his  wives.  Any  form  of 
regulation  is  to  him  a  symptom  of  Bolshevik  tyranny.  But  the  one 
moment  when  he  is  terrified  of  freedom  is  when  he  buys  his  clothes. 
He  is  -more  afraid  of  wearing  a  bright  orange  necktie  to  bis  office 
than  of  carrying  a  red  flag  in  a  communist  parade"  (Harper's 

"Bare  Without  Jewels" 

"To  the  great  dressmakers  and  to  the  women  who  make  fashion 
a  matter  for  prayer  and  meditation,  and  especially  to  foreign  women, 
we  Americans  are  as  incomplete  as  the  vermilionless  painting. 
.  .  .  Lean  back  in  a  stall  in  Covent  Garden  on  a  Ballets  Russe  night 
and  compare  the  jewels  you  see  with  those  worn  at  the  average 
American  soiree.  Foreigners  cannot  understand  our  modesty  in  this 
regard.  How  extraordinary,  they  say,  that  you  Americans  who  have 
money  are  content  with  the  small  bracelet,  the  one  string  of  pearls, 
the  nice  ring  or  two.  .  .  . 

These  simple  molded  gowns  of  black  or  jewel  colored  velvets, 


these  dark  green  sheaths,  these  brilliant  columns  of  stiff  white  satin 
crave  the  barbaric  fire  of  emeralds,  diamonds,  rubies.  .  .  .  For  the 
last  twenty  years  we  have  been  genteel  and  timid  about  jewelry. 
It  was  not  always  thus.  Let  those  who  feel  shocked  by  this  modern 
splendor  remember  that  their  aristocratic  grandmamas  blazed  with 
dog  collars  and  tiaras.  And  who  are  we  to  say  that  the  Queen  of 
Sheba  was  not  a  lady?"  (Harper's  Bazaar.) 


"A  contemporary  chair  or  service  plate  can  range  as  far  in  cost 
and  beauty  as  those  of  Louis  the  XlVth — or  any  other  period. 
Chromium  is  more  expensive  than  no  chromium,  beveled  glass  is 
more  expensive  than  glass  that  is  not  beveled"  (And  a  vote  for 
Wintergreen  is  a  vote  for  Wintergreen.)  Arts  &  Decoration. 

Perhaps  it  is  because  editorial  advertising  is  newer  than 
pure  advertising  that  the  tone  of  editorial  advertising  is  often 
so  brash.  In  Arts  &  Decoration,  the  magazine  which  has  the 
highest  percentage  of  editorial  advertising,  the  situation  has 
gone  so  far  that  the  strident  voice  of  salesmanship  concen- 
trates in  the  subject  matter,  while  the  advertisements  are 
comparatively  dignified  and  serene. 

The  editor-reader  relation  is  the  vital  core  of  the  magazine. 
The  study  of  thirteen  magazines  shows  that  this  relation  has 
its  credit  and  debit  side;  that  it  is  at  once  an  Angel  Gabriel 
and  a  Lucifer.  In  short,  it  is  a  most  human  relation,  in  which 
the  itchiness  of  the  editor,  eager  to  attract  more  advertising 
and  revenue,  competes  with  his  desire  to  be  humanly  useful. 

No  description  of  the  magazines  would  be  complete  with- 
out a  reference  to  the  advertisements,  which  in  contradis- 
tinction to  the  editorial  advertisements,  are  openly  and  un- 
hypocritically  concerned  with  selling.  Our  statistics  show  that 
on  the  average  30.6  per  cent,  or  a  little  less  than  a  third  of 
the  magazine  is  devoted  to  straight  advertising,  while  on  the 
average  43.5  per  cent,  or  a  little  over  two-fifths  of  the  maga- 
zine, is  devoted  to  straight  advertising  and  editorial  advertis- 

ing  combined.  This  43.5  per  cent  is  the  Selling-end  of  the 
magazine.  The  other  54.6  per  cent  is  devoted  to  what  is  gen- 
erally known  as  filler  and  what  for  the  purposes  of  this  study 
we  have  defined  as  Sophistication  and  Entertainment. 


It  is  perhaps  worth  noting  that  the  five  magazines  catering 
mainly  to  women  rank  highest  not  only  in  respect  to  the 
proportion  of  space  in  the  total  contents  of  the  magazine 
devoted  to  editorial  advertising,  but  also  in  the  proportion 
of  space  devoted  to  selling.  The  amount  of  space  devoted  to 
selling  averages  43  per  cent  in  the  thirteen  magazines  and 
62  per  cent  in  the  case  of  the  five  women's  magazines. 

Advertisements  are,  to  the  student  of  a  culture,  one  of  the 
most  revealing  sections  of  the  magazine.  A  great  many  studies 
of  advertising  have  been  made.  First,  they  reflect,  as  in  a 
mirror,  the  material  culture  of  a  people.  Second,  they  throw 
light  on  economic  levels  and  class  stratification.  With  the  ma- 
terial culture  of  the  United  States  we  are  not,  in  this  chapter, 
primarily  concerned.  The  extent  to  which  advertisements  re- 
flect class  stratifications  has  already  been  mentioned,  and  will 
be  referred  to  again  in  more  detail.  For  the  moment,  we  shall 
limit  ourselves  to  asking  one  question:  To  what  extent  do  the 
advertisements  in  these  thirteen  magazines  give  the  reader 
useful  information  about  the  product?  The  success  of  the 
magazine,  Ballyhoo,  and  its  imitators,  showed  that  many 
people  found  some  ads  absurd,  and  perhaps  annoying,  and 
that  they  were  glad  to  have  them  kidded.  Not  all  advertis- 
ing, however,  is  of  this  character.  The  question  is  what  pro- 
portion of  the  ads  are  useful,  and  what  proportion  are  natural 
material  for  satire? 

It  was  necessary  to  find  a  simple  measuring  stick.  An 
analysis  of  the  advertisements  showed  that  they  appealed  to 
many  different  instincts  on  the  part  of  the  reader,  to  fear, 


to  sex,  to  emulation,  to  the  desire  to  make  money,  the  desire 
to  save  money,  and  so  forth.  Moreover,  a  single  advertisement 
often  combines  several  appeals.  It  soon  became  apparent  that 
the  three  major  appeals  of  the  ads,  those  that  appeared  most 
frequently,  were  fear,  sex,  and  emulation.  It  was  therefore 
decided  to  break  up  the  ads  into  two  categories:  i)  those  that 
unmistakably  contained  one  of  these  three  appeals,  regardless 
of  what  other  appeals  the  individual  ad  might  also  contain; 
2)  ads  which  did  not  contain  one  of  these  three  appeals,  and 
which  were  called  straight  ads.  In  the  main,  it  might  be  said 
that  the  straight  ads  contain  more  description  of  the  prod- 
uct than  the  fear-sex-or-emulation  ads.  This  latter  type  of 
ad  is  more  concerned  with  creating  atmosphere  than  with 
describing  the  product. 

What  the  writers  mean  by  advertisements  appealing  to  the 
instincts  of  fear  or  sex  hardly  requires  explanation.  Emula- 
tion, however,  needs  to  be  defined.  As  used  in  this  chapter, 
emulation  is  equivalent  to  snobbism,  it  is  the  keeping-up- 
with-the-Joneses  motif,  the  desire  on  the  part  of  the  indi- 
vidual to  prove  to  his  neighbors  that  his  social  status  is 
enviable.  In  short,  it  is  a  particular  form  of  competitiveness, 
relating  not  to  personal  charm  or  financial  rating,  but  simply 
and  strictly  to  success  in  maintaining  or  achieving  social 

An  examination  of  the  ads  showed  that,  on  the  average,  39 
per  cent  of  the  ads  are  fear-sex-and-emulation  ads,  while  61 
per  cent  are  straight  ads.  The  minimum  percentage  of  fear- 
sex-and-emulation  ads  was  6  per  cent;  the  maximum,  66  per 
cent.  Three  out  of  the  four  magazines  that  reflect  the  cul- 
ture of  the  rich,  the  Class  "A"  magazines,  were  low  in  re- 
spect to  fear-sex-and-emulation  ads.  The  statistics  are  as  fol- 
lows: Harper's  Bazaar,  57  per  cent;  Nation's  Business,  28 
per  cent;  Arts  &  Decoration,  23  per  cent;  and  Harper's 
Magazine,  17  per  cent.  No  equally  clear  correlation  appears 
in  regard  to  the  magazines  which  rank  high  in  respect  to  fear- 


sex-and-emulation  appeals.  Nevertheless,  it  may  perhaps  be 
said  that  a  low  percentage  of  fear-sex-and-emulation  ads  is 
characteristic  of  the  Class  "A"  magazines.  This  correlation 
may  perhaps  to  some  extent  reflect  the  sophistication  of  this 
class;  what  it  probably  reflects  in  the  main  is  the  good  man- 
ners of  the  rich;  the  desire  for  good  tone,  as  versus  vulgarity 
or  stridency. 

A  further  correlation  between  the  fear-sex-and-emulation 
ads  and  class  stratification  appears,  when  we  consider  the  per- 
centage of  advertising  space  devoted  to  each  one  of  these 
three  appeals  in  the  various  magazines.  The  appeal  to  fear 
predominates  in  seven  magazines,  which  are,  generally  speak- 
ing, the  magazines  of  the  lower  income-levels,  while  the 
appeal  to  emulation  predominates  in  six  magazines  of  the 
upper  income-levels.  In  no  magazine  is  the  appeal  to  sex 
dominant  over  the  appeal  to  fear  or  to  emulation.  The  follow- 
ing graph  shows  not  only  what  percentage  of  the  total  adver- 
tising space  is  devoted  to  appeals  to  fear,  sex,  and  emulation, 
but  which  is  the  dominant  appeal  in  each  magazine. 

A  little  reflection  shows  that  the  dominance  of  the  fear 
appeal  in  the  magazines  of  the  lower  income -levels  and  the 
dominance  of  emulation  in  the  magazines  of  the  upper  in- 
come-levels is  quite  natural.  The  poor  cannot  afford  emula- 
tion; the  rich  can.  Moreover,  the  poor  are  used  to  fear  and 
insecurity,  with  them  the  reference  to  fear  is  not  an  alien 
thing.  As  is  the  case  with  primitive  peoples,  they  live  sur- 
rounded by  fears. 

The  fact  that  sex  proves  in  the  advertisements  of  these 
typical  American  magazines  to  be  less  powerful  as  an  appeal 
than  either  fear  or  emulation  is  interesting.  One  grants  easily, 
without  being  able  to  prove  it,  that  fear  is  probably  a  stronger 
motivation  than  sex,  in  all  societies.  The  question  remains 
whether  emulation  is  in  all  societies  a  stronger  motive  than 
sex,  or  whether  it  is  merely  in  American  society  that  emula- 




Average  for    13    Magazines:  HH    15%          HI    9%       BBS  14% 
Harper's  Bazaar 

Saturday  Evening  Pose  B9B 

Arcs  And  Decoration. 

American  Magazine  fiHHH  I  tlsilia  ft 

Nation's  Business  •«•  A 

Harper's  Magazine  BHHH  mS  A 

Woman's  Home  Companion, 

True  Story 

American  Weekly  B  C 

Household  HBHBH  I  C 

tion  is  a  powerful  motivation,  while  sex  is  a  weak  motiva- 

Before  leaving  the  discussion  of  the  ads  to  consider  the 
section  of  the  magazines  devoted  to  what  we  choose  to  call 
Entertainment,  it  may  be  in  point  to  make  a  few  concluding 
but  scattering  comments  concerning  advertisements. 

First:  We  have  seen  that  the  majority  of  the  ads,  61  per 
cent,  are  straight  ads,  dealing  in  the  main  with  the  product, 
rather  than  fear-sex-or-emulation  ads,  which  are  interested 
mainly  in  creating  emotion  or  atmosphere.  A  qualifying  note 


is  necessary  at  this  point.  It  would  be  inaccurate  to  assume 
that  6 1  per  cent  of  the  ads  devote  themselves  mainly  to  de- 
scribing the  product.  The  majority  of  these  ads  devote  more 
space  to  describing  the  effect  upon  the  buyer  of  using  the 
product  than  to  describing  the  product  itself.  Very  elaborate 
statistical  work  would  have  been  necessary  to  document  this 
observation,  and  because  of  the  difficulties  involved,  no  work 
of  this  character  was  done. 

Second:  With  two  exceptions,  advertisements  of  products 
that  appear  in  the  magazines  of  the  rich,  the  middle  classes 
and  the  poor,  tend  to  be  the  same;  that  is,  to  have  the  same 
words  and  copy,  the  assumption  of  the  ad-men  being  that  we 
Americans  are  all  brothers  and  sisters  under  the  skin.  Of  the 
two  conspicuous  exceptions,  one  has  already  been  noted, 
namely:  the  fact  that  fear  appeals  predominate  in  the  lower 
income-brackets,  while  emulation  appeals  dominate  in  the 
upper  income-brackets.  The  other  exception  is  that  the  fear 
appeals  in  the  lower  income-brackets  are  somewhat  cruder 
than  the  fear  appeals  in  the  upper  income-brackets.  Specifi- 
cally, there  is  more  appeal  to  fear  of  parents  for  the  safety 
and  well-being  of  their  children.  Illnesses  and  discomforts 
from  which  both  adults  and  children  may  suffer  are  in  many 
instances  embellished  with  photographs  of  wan,  reproachful 

(1)  "Mother,  Why  Am  I  so  Sore  and  Uncomfortable?" 
(Waldorf  Toilet  Tissue  ad  in  True  Story.) 

(2)  "Scolded    For    Mistakes    That    Father    and    Mother 
Made."  (Postum  General  Foods  ad  in  Household  Magazine.) 

(3)  "And  Don't  Go  Near  Betty  Ann— She's  a  Colds- 
Susceptible."  (Vick's  ad  in  Women's  Home  Companion.) 

Third:  An  examination  of  the  advertising  and  also  of  the 
editorial  contents  of  the  magazines  shows  that  the  commercial 
interests  back  of  the  magazines  treat  women  and  the  poor  with 
scant  respect,  while  men  and  the  rich  have  a  somewhat  better 


III.  The  Ad-Man's  Pseudoculture 

It  is  perhaps  desirable  once  more  to  say  what  we  mean  by 
the  ad-man  and  what  we  mean  by  the  pseudoculture.  We 
have  tried  to  show  in  the  preceding  chapter  that  the  com- 
mercial American  magazines  are  essentially  advertising  busi- 
nesses. Hence  the  editors  of  these  magazines  may  be,  with 
some  minor  qualification,  correctly  characterized  as  adver- 
tising people  motivated  by  considerations  of  profit. 

But  a  society  does  not  and  cannot  live  solely  by  acquisi- 
tive and  profit-motivations.  If  this  were  possible  the  joint 
enterprise  of  the  advertising  writer  and  the  commercial 
magazine  editor,  which  is,  by  and  large,  to  promote  and 
construct  a  purely  acquisitive  culture,  would  be  a  stable  and 
successful  enterprise. 

It  is  nothing  of  the  sort.  Frankly  the  writers  started  with 
a  pessimistic  hypothesis,  viz.:  that  the  acquisitive-emula- 
tive cultural  formula  had  so  debauched  the  American  people 
that  they  really  liked  and  approved  this  formula  as  worked 
out  by  the  mass  and  class  magazines.  The  writers  expected 
on  examining  the  magazines  to  find  the  acquisitive  culture 
dominant  in  all  of  them,  and  to  find  that  in  the  majority  of 
cases  this  culture  existed  undiluted  by  any  admixture  of  the 
older,  traditional  American  culture.  If  they  had  found  what 
they  expected  to  find,  they  would  have  been  obliged  to 
accept  the  conclusion  that  the  ad-man's  acquisitive-emula- 
tive culture  is  an  organic  thing,  something  capable  of  sustain- 
ing human  life.  The  findings  did  not  show  this.  On  the  con- 
trary, they  showed  beyond  the  possibility  of  a  doubt  that 
the  acquisitive  culture  cannot  stand  on  its  own  feet,  that 
it  does  not  satisfy,  that  it  is,  in  fact,  merely  a  pseudoculture. 

The  magazines  live  by  the  promotion  of  acquisitive  and 
emulative  motivations  but  in  order  to  make  the  enterprise  in 
the  least  tolerable  or  acceptable  to  their  readers  it  is  necessary 
to  mix  with  this  emulative  culture,  the  ingredients,  in  vary- 


ing  proportions,  of  the  older  American  culture  in  which  sex, 
sophistication,  sentiment,  the  arts,  sciences,  etc.,  play  major 
roles.  Only  three  of  the  thirteen  magazines  examined  are  able 
to  build  and  hold  a  circulation  on  the  basis  of  an  editorial 
content  consisting  solely  of  acquisitive  and  emulative  appeals. 
All  of  these  three  are  in  one  way  or  another  special  cases. 
Arts  &  Decoration,  Harper's  Bazaar,  and  Photoplay  are  all 
three  essentially  parasitic  fashion  magazines.  The  first  two  are 
enterprises  in  the  exploitation  of  the  rich,  who  constitute  over 
50  per  cent  of  their  circulation.  Photoplay,  a  middle  class 
gossip  and  fashion  sheet,  is,  by  and  large,  simply  a  collection 
agent  for  the  acquisitive  and  emulative  wants  built  up  by  the 
movies  which,  as  we  have  seen,  function  predominantly  as  a 
want-building  institution  in  the  American  culture. 

In  other  words  the  business  of  publishing  commercial 
magazines  is  a  parasitic  industry.  The  ad-man's  pseudoculture 
parasites  on  the  older,  more  organic  culture,  just  as  the  ad- 
vertising business  is  itself  a  form  of  economic  parasitism;  in 
Veblen's  language,  it  represents  one  of  the  ways  in  which 
profit-motivated  business  "conscientiously  withdraws  effi- 
ciency from  the  productivity  of  industry,"  this  "conscien- 
tious sabotage"  being  necessary  to  prevent  the  disruptive 
force  of  applied  science  from  shattering  the  chains  of  the 
profit  system.  It  is,  we  feel,  important  to  note  that  this 
phenomenon  of  parasitism  or  sabotage  extends  not  merely  to 
the  economy  considered  as  a  mechanism  of  production  and 
distribution  but  to  the  culture  considered  as  a  system  of 
values  and  motivations  by  which  people  live. 

But  the  American  people  do  not  like  this  pseudoculture, 
cannot  live  by  it,  and,  indeed,  never  have  lived  by  it.  The 
magazines  analyzed,  which  were  published  during  this  the 
fifth  year  of  a  depression,  show  that  fiction  writers,  sensitive 
to  public  opinion,  often  definitely  repudiate  this  culture. 
Americans  tend,  at  the  moment,  if  the  magazine  culture  can 
be  considered  to  be  a  mirror  of  popular  feeling,  to  look,  not 

forward  into  the  future,  but  backward  into  the  past.  They 
are  trying  to  discover  by  what  virtues,  by  what  pattern  of 
life,  the  Americans  of  earlier  days  succeeded  in  being  admir- 
able people,  and  in  sustaining  a  life,  which,  if  it  did  not  have 
ease  and  luxury,  did  seem  to  have  dignity  and  charm.  Al- 
though the  main  drift  of  desire  is  toward  the  past,  there  are 
other  drifts.  Some  editors  and  readers  even  envision  revolu- 
tion and  the  substitution  of  a  new  culture  for  the  acquisitive 
and  the  traditional  American  culture. 


In  the  older,  more  humane  culture,  sex  and  sophistication 
are  the  major  elements.  In  the  artificial  profit-motivated 
pseudoculture  by  which  the  commercial  magazine  lives  and 
tries  to  make  its  readers  live,  emulation  tends  to  replace  sex 
as  a  major  interest,  whereas  sophistication  dwindles  and  ulti- 
mately disappears.  The  following  table  exhibits  a  striking 
inverse  ratio: 


Per  cent  of  editorial  and  Per  cent  of  total 

article  space  devoted        -magazine  space  devoted 
Magazine                      to  sophistication         to  editorial  advertisements 
Saturday  Evening  Post        88%  3% 
Nation's  Business                  79%  8% 
American  Magazine             4J%  2% 
Harper's  Magazine               37%  7% 
Cosmopolitan                         28%  3% 
Liberty                                   24%  4% 
True  Story                             16%  6% 
Household                              1 1  %  1 8  % 
Harper's  Bazaar                      2%  34% 
Woman's  Home  Com- 
panion                              *>5%  I5% 



Per  cent  of  editorial  and  Per  cent  of  total 

article  space  devoted  magazine  space  devoted 

Magazine                      to  sophistication  to  editorial  advertisements 

American  Weekly                  .7  %  i  °/G 

Photoplay                                .0%  24% 

Arts  &  Decoration               .0%  48% 

In  the  Saturday  Evening  Post  we  find  the  maximum  of 
editorial  and  article  space,  88  per  cent,  devoted  to  sophistica- 
tion. By  sophistication  we  mean  a  realistic  attempt  by  the 
editors  to  deal  with  the  facts  and  problems  which  constitute 
the  everyday  concerns  of  their  readers.  The  Post  devotes  a 
minimum  of  space  to  editorial  advertising.  Yet,  paradoxically 
enough,  the  Saturday  Evening  Post  is  the  greatest  advertising 
medium  in  the  world.  This  would  seem  to  indicate  that  edi- 
torial advertising  is  to  a  magazine  what  makeup  is  to  a  plain 
woman.  Not  that  the  Post  is  in  any  true  sense  a  satisfactory 
and  creative  cultural  medium.  The  most  that  can  be  said  for 
the  Post  is  that  it  functions  with  some  sincerity  and  effec- 
tiveness as  the  organ  of  a  specific  economic  and  social  class. 

At  the  bottom  of  this  dual  ascending  and  descending  scale, 
we  find  Arts  &  Decoration  with  a  sophistication  rating  of 
zero  and  48  per  cent  of  its  total  space  devoted  to  editorial 
advertising.  Obviously,  Arts  &  Decoration  represents  the 
phenomenon  of  pure  commercial  parasitism.  It  is  the  organ  of 
nothing  and  nobody  except  its  publishers  and  advertisers,  and 
it  holds  its  18,000  readers  by  a  mixture  of  flattery  and  insult, 
which  magazine  publishers,  it  seems,  consider  to  be  the 
proper  formula  to  be  used  on  the  new-rich  and  the  social 
climber.  The  slogan  would  seem  to  be:  Mannerless  readers  de- 
serve a  mannerless  magazine. 

There  is  another  inverse  ratio  in  which  this  battle  of  the 
cultures  is  apparent.  In  the  magazine  literature  of  the  pre- 



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war  days,  men  and  women  grew  up,  fell  in  love,  married, 
had  children,  and  lived  more  or  less  happily  ever  after.  Among 
current  magazine  examples  we  find  that  the  American  Maga- 
zine is  still  reasonably  confident  that  this  biological  pattern 
is  fundamental  to  human  life.  In  78  per  cent  of  its  fiction 
content  sex — sentimental  sex — is  a  major  appeal.  Signifi- 
cantly, we  note  that  only  three  per  cent  of  the  American 
Magazine's  non-advertising  space  is  devoted  to  promoting 
emulative  motivations.  With  the  Saturday  Evening  Post,  a 
magazine  which  goes  to  a  somewhat  wealthier  class  of  read- 
ers than  the  American,  the  emphasis  on  sex  has  lessened,  and 
the  interest  in  the  acquisitive  society  is  much  more  pro- 
nounced. Only  28  per  cent  of  the  Post's  fiction  is  devoted  to 
sex,  compared  to  the  American's  78  per  cent.  45  per  cent  of 
the  Post's  subject  matter  space  is  devoted  to  emulation.  Still 
more  extreme  is  the  situation  in  respect  to  Photoplay  and  Arts 
&  Decoration,  where  sex  rates  five  and  zero  per  cent  respec- 
tively, and  emulation  rates  20  and  43  per  cent. 

The  magazine  spectrum  breaks  down  into  three  major 
categories;  the  five  magazines  in  which  the  acquisitive  cul- 
ture is  dominant,  the  four  magazines  in  which  the  two  cul- 
tures co-exist;  and  the  four  remaining  magazines  in  which  the 
older  culture  is  dominant.  It  is  significant  that  the  first  group 
of  magazines  caters  exclusively  to  women;  the  second  and 
third  groups  to  both  men  and  women. 

There  are  two  other  women's  magazines  in  which  the  ac- 
quisitive culture  is  dominant.  The  Woman's  Home  Compan- 
ion is  edited  for  the  urban  woman,  and  Household  Magazine, 
the  largest  and  most  popular  of  the  rural  women's  magazines, 
caters  to  the  small  town  and  farm  woman.  Woman's  Home 
Companion  may  be  said  to  be  typical  of  the  six  urban 
women's  magazines  with  over  1,000,000  circulation — Ladies' 
Home  Journal,  McCalls,  Woman's  Home  Companion,  Good 
Housekeeping,  Pictorial  Review,  and  Delineator;  while 
Household  is  typical  of  the  five  rural  women's  magazines 


with  over  1,000,000  circulation — Household,  Woman's 
World,  Needlecraft,  Mother's  Home  Life  and  Household 
Guest,  and  Gentlewoman.  These  nine  magazines  alone  dis- 
tribute 239,000,000  copies  of  their  product  every  year. 

There  is  a  distinct  difference  between  the  rural  and  the 
urban  women's  magazines;  the  rural  magazines  being  much 
closer  to  the  older  traditional  American  culture.  Household 
Magazine  is  one  of  the  few  magazines  on  our  list  that  men- 
tions God;  the  poetry  is  nai've  and  sincere,  and  the  editor  is 
human,  honest,  and  even  imaginative  about  his  readers.  The 
difficulty  with  Household  would  seem  to  be  that  there  is  a 
conflict  between  the  editorial  office  and  the  business  office; 
the  business  office  being  intent  on  apeing  the  formula  and 
commercialism  of  the  urban  women's  magazine  group.  In 
the  urban  women's  magazines,  the  older  American  culture  has 
become  so  thin  as  to  be  hardly  visible.  Even  the  interest  in 
sex  withers  away  in  the  Companion.  While  Household  de- 
votes 58  per  cent  of  its  fiction  to  sex,  the  Companion  gauges 
its  readers'  interest  in  sex  at  22  per  cent.  The  sophistication 
element  in  Household  is  16  per  cent;  in  the  Companion  it  is 
1.5  per  cent. 

The  group  of  four  magazines  in  which  neither  culture 
is  dominant,  but  in  which  both  cultures  exist  side  by  side,  in- 
cludes the  Cosmopolitan,  Liberty,  True  Story  and  the  Satur- 
day Evening  Post.  The  following  table  will  show  what  ele- 
ments of  the  two  cultures  are  present: 

Magazine  Older  Culture  Acquisitive  Culture 

Saturday  Evening  Post  Sophistication  Emulation 

Cosmopolitan  Sex  Emulation 

Liberty  Sex  Emulation 

True   Story  Sex  Emulation 

In  the  magazines  in  which  emulation  is  dominant,  less  than 
three-fifths  of  the  fiction  is  concerned  with  sex.  But  in  Cos- 


mopolitan,  Liberty  and  True  Story  over  three-fifths  of  the 
fiction  is  concerned  with  sex.  The  acquisitive  culture  is  repre- 
sented by  a  considerable  dash  of  emulation:  Cosmopolitan  13 
per  cent;  Liberty  17  per  cent;  and  True  Story  30  per  cent. 
In  connection  with  True  Story  it  should  be  pointed  out  that 
the  emulative  escape  for  the  poor  is  crime  and  that  this  fact 
is  quite  definitely  recognized  in  the  fiction  content  of  this 

The  Saturday  Evening  Post  is  in  a  class  by  itself.  Its  sophis- 
tication content  of  88  per  cent  is  the  highest  of  any  of  the 
magazines  examined,  and  its  emulative  content  of  45  per 
cent  is  second  only  to  Harper's  Bazaar,  which  is  68  per  cent. 
A  third  of  the  Post's  readers  have  incomes  of  over  $5,000  a 
year.  They  can  afford  to  play  this  emulative  game  and  the 
Post  as  a  commercial  enterprise  duly  exploits  this  fact  in  its 
fictional  content. 

There  are  four  magazines  in  which  the  older  culture  is 
dominant:  the  American  Magazine,  Harper's  Magazine,  Na- 
tion's Business  and  the  American  Weekly.  In  Harper's  Maga- 
zine we  find  perhaps  the  most  typical  expression  of  the  "cul- 
tured" upper-middle-class  tradition,  as  it  carries  over  from  the 
nineteenth  century.  The  readers  of  Harpers  are  given  no 
emulative  stimulus  whatever,  except  in  the  ads.  The  sophisti- 
cation rating  is  37  per  cent.  Harpers  ranks  fourth  in  this 
respect.  In  the  American  Magazine,  the  prewar,  precrash  cul- 
ture persists.  In  particular,  this  magazine  continues  to  exploit 
the  fictional  formula  of  the  prewar  culture.  Its  preoccupa- 
tion with  the  pretty  romantic  aspects  of  courtship  reveals 
how  strong  is  the  cultural  lag  against  which  the  hard,  gal- 
vanic, emulative  culture  battles.  In  its  articles  and  editorials, 
the  American  appeals  to  the  small  city  and  small  town  Ameri- 
can man,  who  admires  business  success,  bristles  alertly  about 
politics,  and  believes  that  the  world  is  inhabited  by  villains 
and  kind  people,  with  the  kind  people  in  a  position  of 


In  the  American  Weekly  we  encounter  another  emulation 
zero.  Its  readers  are  urban  proletarians,  too  poor  to  play  the 
emulative  game.  The  Hearst  formula  realizes  that  they  are 
strongly  interested  in  sex:  65  per  cent,  but  that  they  are  even 
more  interested  in  science.  Three  times  as  much  space  is  de- 
voted to  science  as  to  sex.  True,  the  science  is  of  a  primitive 
sort,  like  Paul  Bunyan's  "Tales  of  the  Blue  Ox."  Typical 
American  Weekly  titles  are:  "The  Sleeping  Habits  of  the 
Chimpanzee,"  "The  Growth  of  the  Iron  Horse  Since  the  Six- 
Wheeled  Locomotive,"  "Chicago  Observatory  Telegraphs  to 
the  Dead,"  "Why  Our  Climate  Is  Slowly  Becoming  Tropical," 
"What  the  Tower  of  Babel  Really  Looked  Like."  The  Ameri- 
can Weekly  is  quite  simply  concerned  with  serving  a  satis- 
fying dish  of  weekly  thrills.  The  technique  is  robust  since 
the  modern  world  is  full  of  wonders  and  the  appetites  of  the 
readers  are  not  complicated. 

The  Nation's  Business  is  another  very  special  case.  This 
magazine  is  the  official  organ  of  the  United  States  Chamber 
of  Commerce,  while  the  Saturday  Evening  Post  might  be 
thought  of  as  its  unofficial  organ.  The  Nation's  Business  ranks 
with  the  Saturday  Evening  Post  in  point  of  sophistication.  Its 
editorial  content  is  devoid  of  emulative  appeal  and  even  the 
advertisements  rate  remarkably  low  in  these  respects;  only  9.6 
per  cent  of  the  ads  appeal  to  emulation. 

It  would  be  a  commonplace  to  remark  that  most  of  the 
editorial  content  of  these  magazines  is  quite  ephemeral.  Fifty 
years  hence  the  literary  historian  will  probably  have  little 
difficulty  in  condensing  the  creative  contribution  of  our  total 
commercial  magazine-press  during  the  postwar  period  into  a 
brief  dismissive  paragraph  to  the  effect  that  the  fugitive  litera- 
ture of  this  period  was  ugly,  faked  and  frail.  After  one  has 
diligently  read  this  curious  stuff  over  a  period  of  weeks,  one 
begins  to  see  our  contemporary  magazine  pseudoculture  as 
an  almost  human  creature.  It  is  a  robot  contraption,  strung 
together  with  the  tinsel  of  material  emulation,  galvanized 


with  fear,  and  perfumed  with  fake  sex.  It  exhibits  a  definite 
glandular  imbalance,  being  hyperthyroid  as  to  snobbism,  but 
with  a  deficiency  of  sex,  economics,  politics,  religion,  science, 
art  and  sentiment.  It  is  ugly,  nobody  loves  it,  and  nobody 
really  wants  it  except  the  business  men  who  make  money 
out  of  it.  It  has  a  low  brow,  a  long  emulative  nose,  thin, 
bloodless,  asexual  lips,  and  the  receding  chin  of  the  will-less, 
day-dreaming  fantast.  The  stomach  is  distended  either  by  the 
abnormal  things-obsessed  appetite  of  the  middle-class  and  the 
rich,  or  by  the  starved  flatulence  of  the  poor.  Finally  it  is 
visibly  dying  for  lack  of  blood  and  brains. 


In  anatomizing  this  pseudoculture  we  must  refer  again  to 
our  definition  of  culture  as  the  sum-total  of  the  human  en- 
vironment to  which  any  individual  is  exposed,  and  point  out 
again  that  the  test  of  a  culture  is  what  kind  of  a  life  it 
affords  not  for  a  few  but  for  all  of  its  citizens.  One  grants 
immediately  that  emulation  has  a  place  in  any  genuine  cul- 
ture. It  is  a  question  of  balance,  and  the  point  here  made  is 
that  the  quantity  and  kind  of  emulation  exhibited  by  the 
magazine  pseudoculture  is  such  as  to  affect  adversely  and 
probably  disastrously  the  viability  of  this  synthetic  creature 
that  the  magazines  offer  us.  Specifically,  snobbism  appears  to 
be  the  antithesis  of  sex.  Where  the  first  is  dominant,  the  other 
tends  to  be  recessive. 

An  analysis  of  the  entire  contents  of  the  thirteen  maga- 
zines shows  that  sex  and  emulation  are  the  principal  appeals 
in  the  subject  matter.  Sentiment  occupies  on  the  average  only 
1.8  per  cent  of  the  total  space  in  the  magazines,  humor  only 
.9  per  cent.  In  the  advertisements  there  is  more  emulation 
than  sex.  The  average  appeal  to  sex  in  the  ads  in  the  thirteen 
magazines  is  9.6  per  cent,  the  average  appeal  to  emulation  is 
14.7  per  cent.  In  the  subject  matter  sex  continues  to  domi- 


nate  emulation.  This  is  particularly  true  in  the  fiction  where 
5  5  per  cent  of  the  stories  have  sex  as  the  main  appeal.  Emula- 
tion, however,  occupies  no  inconsiderable  place  in  the  maga- 
zines. Twenty-two  per  cent  or  one-fifth  of  the  subject  matter 
is  concerned  with  emulation. 

There  is  one  generalization  about  emulation  as  it  appears 
in  these  magazines  that  can  safely  be  made,  emulation  is  not 
a  commodity  that  can  be  offered  to  the  poor.  Not  even  the 
lower  middle-class  can  afford  it.  It  is  distinctly  for  the  well- 
to-do  and  for  the  rich.  While  fear  is  the  dominant  appeal  in 
the  advertising  sections  of  seven  magazines  which  are  read  by 
the  lower  income  class,  emulation  is  the  dominant  appeal  in 
the  advertisements  of  six  magazines  which  go  to  the  upper 
income-levels.  For  example:  in  True  Story,  42  per  cent  of 
the  ads  are  fear  ads.  In  contrast,  Harper's  Bazaar  has  no  fear 
ads,  and  3  5  per  cent  of  the  ads  are  devoted  to  emulation. 

Emulation  is,  of  course,  most  apparent  in  magazines  in 
which  the  acquisitive,  emulative  culture  is  undiluted,  like 
Harper's  Bazaar,  Arts  &  Decoration  and  Photoplay.  In  the 
previous  chapter,  "Chromium  Is  More  Expensive,"  we  have 
already  quoted  emulative  editorial  advertising  taken  from 
the  first  two  of  these  magazines.  A  few  brief  examples  of 
snobbism,  chosen  not  only  from  these  magazines  but  from 
the  general  list  of  magazines,  will  perhaps  illustrate  the  preva- 
lence of  snobbism  and  its  character. 

(1)  "It  was  a  subtle  satisfaction  that  no  big  social  affair  was 
considered  complete  without  us.  'Were  the  Roger  Browns  there?' 
was  the  regular  question  in  the  aftermath  of  gossip."  (True  Story) 

(2)  "  'She's  one  of  the  Mount-Dyce-Mounts.'  'One  of  the  Mount- 
Dyce-Mounts,'  echoed  John  unbelievingly,  and  forgetting  all  about 
Jean,  he  hurried  down  the  steps  .  .  .  and  went  up  to  where  the 
old  lady  had  settled  herself  in  a  chair.  John  introduced  himself  with 
a  charming  air."   (Liberty) 

( 3 )  "  'I  keep  only  one  groom  so  I  help  to  look  after  my  ponies 
myself  in  the  morning.  I  did  not  stop  to  take  off  my  coat,  because 


I  was  afraid  I  might  miss  you.  Excuse.'  He  removed  his  duster 
solemnly.  In  his  tweed  coat  and  well-worn  riding  breeches,  his  cos- 
tume conformed  to  type."  (Woman's  Home  Companion) 

(4)  "He's   a  hotel   aristocrat.   You're   a   country  gentlewoman. 
I'm  so  glad  it's  all  over.  How  wise  Dr.  Fancher  was  not  to  announce 
the  engagement."  (Saturday  Evening  Post) 

(5)  "Now  for  the  problem  of  the  Christmas  gift,  for,  despite 
the  pleasure  we  all  must  surely  feel  in  giving  gifts  to  our  friends, 
the  choosing  of  gifts  is  indeed  a  problem,   and   the  problem  lies 
mainly  in  avoiding  the  banal."  (Harper's  Bazaar) 

(6)  "Those  who  are  demanding  'contempora'  are  in  a  sense  the 
patrons  of  modern  design.  Just  as  the  Church  was  at  one  time,  and 
the  King  at  another."  (Arts  &  Decoration) 


Before  plunging  into  the  jungle  of  our  magazine  sex  fic- 
tion it  will  be  necessary  to  establish  certain  points  of  refer- 

1.  The  biological  norm  of  the  sex  relation  tends  to  assert 
and  re-assert  itself  against  the  religious  and  other  taboos  of 
the  social  environment,  and  against  the  limitations  and  frus- 
trations of  the  economic  environment.  In  other  words,  the 
readers  of  the  magazines  are  both  biological  and  social  animals 
who  would  doubtless  like  to  be  human,  to  live  balanced, 
vigorous  and  creative  sexual  and  social  lives. 

2.  Theoretically,  the  magazines,   in   so   far   as   they  deal 
with  sex  at  all,  are  trying  to  instruct  and  aid  their  readers 
in  solving  their  problems  of  sexual  adjustment  within  the 
existing  framework  of  the  economy  and  of  the  mores.  Since 
the  writer  of  fiction  or  verse  exhibits  directly  or  indirectly 
a  set  of  values,  the  verse  and  fiction  writers  are  inevitably 
affecting,  for  good  or  ill,  the  values  and  attitudes  of  their 
readers  in  regard  to  sex.  There  are  also  the  articles  which  deal 
with  sex  directly. 

Against  this  background,  let  us  now  attempt  to  describe 


what  actually  goes  on  in  these  magazines.  The  exploitation  of 
the  sexual  dilemmas  of  the  population  by  advertisers  will 
be  given  consideration  in  the  chapter  on  "Sacred  and 
Profane  Love."  In  the  fictional  and  verse  content  of  the 
popular  magazines  we  have  another,  less  direct  form  of  ex- 
ploitation. We  know  who  writes  the  advertisements  and  why. 
It  is  necessary  now  to  ask:  who  writes  the  sex  fiction  and 

The  first  point  to  note  is  that  very  little  of  it  is  written 
by  literary  artists.  There  is  a  categorical  difference  between 
the  equipment,  attitude  and  purpose  of  the  literary  artist  who 
deals  with  sex  relations,  and  the  equipment,  attitude  and 
purpose  of  the  sex  fictioneer. 

The  work  of  the  artist  is  a  work  of  discovery,  including 
self-discovery,  and  of  statement.  In  the  field  of  sex  the  mature 
artist  exhibits  neither  timidity  nor  shame.  True,  the  artist  is 
often,  like  other  human  beings,  the  victim  of  biological  or 
socially  acquired  defects,  inhibitions  and  distortions,  both 
physiological  and  psychological.  Hence  much  genuine  litera- 
ture in  the  field  of  sex  must  be  characterized  as  in  a  sense 
compensatory  writing.  It  would  seem  probable,  for  example, 
that  practically  all  the  work  of  D.  H.  Lawrence  is  of  this 
nature,  as  well  as  some,  at  least,  of  the  work  of  Walt  Whit- 
man. But  both  these  writers,  being  genuinely  gifted  artists, 
are  concerned  only  with  the  presentation  of  the  observed  or 
intuitively  perceived  truth;  they  are  concerned  with  dis- 
covery. They  are  serving  no  ulterior  purposes,  and  are  in  one 
sense  writing  primarily  for  themselves.  And  being  strong  na- 
tures, they  assert  their  own  values,  attitudes,  judgments,  for 
value  judgments  are  implicit  in  the  most  "objective"  writing. 

In  contrast,  the  commercial  sex  fictioneer  is  primarily  con- 
cerned, not  with  the  discovery  and  statement  of  truth,  but 
with  the  making  of  money.  If,  as  ordinarily,  his  is  a  tenth 
rate  talent,  his  maximum  service  lies  in  the  telling  of  a  tale; 
but  in  the  telling  he  illuminates  little  or  nothing.  At  his 

worst  the  sex  fictioneer  is  merely  commercializing  an  accepta- 
ble formula;  he  is  "selling"  the  pseudoculture  to  itself;  he  does 
nothing  creative  with  the  current  sexual  fact  or  with  the 
current  sexual  make-believe;  he  does  not  even  achieve  clear 

In  this  commercial  sex  fiction,  the  pattern  is  cut  to  the 
requirements  of  the  editor,  who  specializes  in  calculating 
what  can  and  cannot  be  said  within  the  limits  of  a  com- 
mercial enterprise  designed  to  acquire  or  hold  a  certain  class 
or  mass  circulation.  It  is  a  fairly  complex  calculation,  and 
much  study  and  experiment  are  required  before  the  appren- 
tice sex  fictioneer  gets  the  editorial  "slant"  of  a  particular 

Of  the  thirteen  magazines  examined,  True  Story  is  the 
only  one  which  definitely  claims  to  offer  sex  instruction  to 
its  readers. 

"Until  five  years  ago,"  said  a  full-page  advertisement,  .  .  . 
"there  was  nowhere  men  and  women,  boys  and  girls,  could  turn  to 
to  get  a  knowledge  of  the  rules  of  life.  .  .  .  Then  came  True  Story, 
a  magazine  that  is  different  from  any  ever  published.  Its  foundation 
is  the  solid  rock  of  truth.  ...  It  will  help  you,  too.  In  five  years 
it  has  reached  the  unheard-of  circulation  of  two  million  copies 
monthly,  and  is  read  by  five  million  or  more  appreciative  men  and 

While  True  Story  is  certainly  a  commercial  enterprise,  and 
while  an  unsympathetic  commentator  might  well  allege  that 
it  was  specifically  designed  to  exploit  the  postwar  relaxation 
of  the  sexual  mores,  it  is  nevertheless  true  that  True  Story  is 
immeasurably  closer  to  reality  than  any  of  the  other  twelve 
magazines  examined.  This,  in  spite  of  the  fact  that  most  of 
its  "true  stories"  give  internal  evidence  of  being  fake  stories, 
nine-tenths  of  which  are  written  by  formula  and  perhaps  one- 
tenth  by  high  school  graduates  eager  to  become  writers. 

The  distinction  of  True  Story  rests  on  the  fact  that  it 


admits  that  sexual  temptations  sometimes  occur  and  are  some- 
times yielded  to;  also  that  it  deals  with  matrimony  rather  than 
courtship.  Its  limitation  is  its  virtuous  surrender  to  the  Puri- 
tan conviction  that  an  extra-marital  slip  is  a  sin,  inevitably 
followed  by  remorse  and  retribution. 

Of  eleven  stories  and  articles  in  the  issue  examined,  six 
have  sex  for  a  major  theme  and  five  of  these  stories  deal  with 
matrimonial  difficulties,  i.  e.,  sexual  temptations  not  evaded. 
One  must,  of  course,  point  out  that  no  true  description  of  the 
sexual  behavior  of  the  poor  is  to  be  derived  from  True  Story, 
although  there  are  scenes  in  which  a  married  woman  prepares 
the  room  for  the  reception  of  her  lover  and  receives  him. 
What  true  descriptions  we  have  must  be  looked  for  in  the 
work  of  such  novelists  as  Edward  Dahlberg,  James  T.  Farrell, 
Erskine  Caldwell  and  Morley  Callaghan.  The  True  Story 
formula,  in  its  negative  and  positive  aspects,  runs  somewhat 
as  follows:  sinner  redeemed,  sinner  pays,  sinner  repents,  saint 
sacrifices  all;  the  beauty  of  duty,  of  security  after  a  narrow 
escape  from  losing  one's  reputation  and  job;  the  beauty  of 
being  a  true  wife,  the  beauty  of  resignation,  of  truthfulness, 
and  of  character. 

After  a  particularly  lurid  escapade  the  True  Story  heroine 
is  obliged  to  say  something  like  this:  "If  every  silly,  senti- 
mental fool  in  this  sad  old  world  could  have  witnessed  that 
scene,  it  would  have  done  an  enormous  amount  of  good. 
Many  a  home  would  have  been  saved  from  ruin.  They  would 
have  known  the  tempting  Dead  Sea  fruit  of  illicit  love  for 
what  it  was,  giving  a  bitter  flavor  to  life  for  all  who  taste 

Obviously,  the  success  of  Mr.  Macfadden's  enterprise  is 
based  on  the  profitableness  of  bearing  witness. 

An  analysis  of  45  sex  stories  from  ten  magazines,  includ- 
ing True  Story,  yields  much  interesting  material  for  specula- 
tion. But  as  regards  the  technique  of  sexual  behavior  the 
harvest  is  meagre  indeed.  We  were  able  to  discover  only  four 


items  of  premarital  and  two  items  of  postmarital  technique. 

Premarital  technique:  How  a  mother  can  recognize  the 
first  sign  of  love  in  her  adolescent  son  (Woman's  Home 
Companion).  How  to  approach  a  virgin  (Data  in  a  number 
of  stories,  but  all  very  meagre  and  questionable).  How,  if  a 
girl  is  careful  and  smart  she  can  take  everything  and  give 
nothing  (American  Weekly) .  Why  an  unmarried  woman  who 
wishes  to  seduce  a  youth  should  avoid  tragic  diversions  such 
as  those  incident  to  the  mistake  of  taking  along  her  pet  goat 
(Harper's  Bazaar). 

Postmarital  technique:  How  to  commit  bigamy.  How  to 
kill  a  drunken  husband  and  thereby  improve  one's  social 

In  addition  to  the  information  about  technique,  the  45  sex 
stories  present  the  following  conclusions  about  sex,  sex  and 
economics,  and  morals: 

Men:  "All  men  are  pretty  dumb  and  clumsy.  There  might 
be  men  somewhere  who  lived  up  to  the  things  the  poets, 
novelists  and  musicians  said  of  men.  If  so,  she  had  never 
met  them." 

One  man  may  be  able  to  arouse  a  frigid  woman,  while 
another  may  not. 

A  man  will  bet  on  his  ability  to  pluck  the  bloom  from  a 
virgin,  and  then  not  want  it. 

A  genius  is  not  bound  by  the  moral  code  of  Puritanism. 

Marriage:  The  sex  revolution  of  the  postwar  era  led  to  un- 

After  "sleeping  around,"  actually  or  mentally,  a  married 
couple's  chance  of  happiness  is  with  each  other. 

Through  reading  light,  trashy  stuff  a  woman  may  lose  her 

Sex  and  Economics:  Millions  cannot  buy  love.  A  mercenary 
woman  cares  more  for  her  car  than  for  her  husband.  A  rich 


girl  is  smart  if  she  marries  a  poor  boy  who  has  brains.  Since 
a  poor  girl  is  often  no  good,  it  is  safer  to  marry  a  rich  girl. 
Morals:  Virtue  is  more  attractive  than  vice.  An  "indiscre- 
tion" can  strip  a  woman  of  her  good  name,  rob  her  of  her 
freedom,  and  cost  her  every  penny  she  has  in  the  world.  A 
common-law  marriage  may  ruin  a  man's  social  position  years 
later.  A  married  couple  should  be  an  example  to  other  mar- 
ried couples  and  to  unmarried  persons. 

These  conclusions  and  the  six  technical  points  represent  all 
that  is  to  be  gained  from  this  magazine  sex  fiction. 

Of  the  45  sex  stories  examined,  only  13  were  straight  sex 
stories.  The  complications  introduced  in  the  remaining  32  are 
as  follows: 

Thirteen:  economics  plus  sex;  eleven:  romance  plus  sex; 
five:  the  American  scene  plus  sex;  two:  the  sex  revolution; 
one:  religion  plus  sex. 

It  is  worth  noting  that  although  complications  due  to  inter- 
marriage of  races  and  nationalities  might  be  expected,  prac- 
tically nothing  of  this  sort  was  encountered. 

It  should  be  emphasized  that  this  magazine  sex  literature 
centers  around  women  rather  than  around  men.  The  problems 
of  men  are  considered  in  only  three  of  the  45  sex  fiction 
stories.  It  is  also  significant  that  men  outnumber  women  in 
the  cast  of  characters;  a  surplusage  of  men  is  necessary  prop- 
erly to  dramatize  the  feminine  dilemma.  This  surplusage  of 
men  is  more  pronounced  as  we  ascend  the  class  ladder.  The 
woman  of  True  Story  hopes  for  no  more  than  a  single  lover. 
The  middle-class  heroine  must  have  at  least  the  choice  of  two. 
The  grande  dame  of  Harper's  Bazaar  requires  a  circle  of 
adoring  youths  with  beautiful  bodies,  including  at  least  one 

So  frequently  does  the  theme  repeat  itself  in  this  magazine 
sex  fiction  that  we  feel  warranted  in  saying  that  the  dominant 
desire  of  the  woman  is  to  be  freed  from  some  situation  in 
which  she  is  bound  or  caught.  But  in  only  two  instances  out 


of  the  45  (the  sex  revolution  stories)  does  the  heroine  her- 
self initiate  positive  action  toward  such  liberation.  The  most 
that  the  average  heroine  permits  herself  is  to  give  some  clue 
to  her  prospective  liberator.  Out  of  a  wealth  of  data  we  sub- 
mit the  following  quotations  which  serve  best  to  reveal  the 
typical  heroine's  attitude: 

"Restlessness,  dissatisfaction  possessed  her.  She  wanted  more — 
more,  somehow,  than  life  was  giving  her.  Other  women  were 
happy — sometimes  such  stupid,  plain,  elderly  women  were  happy, 
but  she  was  continually  fretted  and  harassed  by  this  sense  of  miss- 
ing something — of  being  cheated."  (Kathleen  Norris.  "Three  Men 
and  Diana."  The  American) 

"I  had  Wanted  Out.  Always  I  had  Wanted  Out.  Yet  whenever  I 
had  tried  to  find  a  door — when  I  had  taken  some  great  risk,  like 
marriage,  in  order  to  find  the  door — I  had  failed.  There  had  been 
no  door.  Then,  suddenly,  in  some  unexpected  place  the  door  would 
open!"  (Elsie  Robinson.  "I  Wanted  Out."  Cosmopolitan,  April, 

All  these  fiction  heroines  want  happiness,  of  course,  but  it 
is  notable  that  they  get  happiness  only  in  the  romantic  mo- 
ment which  precedes  marriage.  Stories  of  happy  married  life 
are  entirely  lacking  in  the  samples  examined.  Significant  class 
differences  characterize  the  behavior  of  these  heroines.  The 
extravagance  of  the  rich  woman  in  the  matter  of  lovers  has 
already  been  indicated.  The  shifting  milieu  of  these  stories 
would  also  seem  to  show  a  class  difference. 

In  Class  "A"  magazines  the  scene  is  always  Europe,  the 
Swiss  Alps,  Scotland,  England,  the  Riviera.  America  is  ignored 
geographically.  In  the  Class  "B"  magazines  the  geography  is 
mixed;  Africa,  London,  the  Oregon  of  the  gold  rush,  a  fresh 
water  college  town,  New  England,  Chicago,  New  York  and 
Hollywood.  In  the  Class  "C"  magazines  with  only  a  few  ex- 
ceptions the  locale  is  America — the  poor  don't  travel.  The 
typical  scene  is  the  country  or  small  town,  New  England, 


Chicago,  New  York  and  Hollywood.  It  would  appear  that 
Hollywood  is  the  Riviera  of  the  proletarian  as  well  as  to  a 
considerable  extent  the  focus  for  the  dreams  of  the  middle- 
class  woman. 

The  following  table  indicates  the  range  of  fiction  heroines 
encountered  by  class  categories.  Note  that  the  typical  rich 
heroine  is  mercenary,  the  typical  middle-class  heroine  is  an 
unawakened  or  unresponsive  woman,  and  the  typical  poor 
heroine  is  sexually  responsive  as  well  as  biologically  more 
prolific.  In  magazine  fiction  as  well  as  in  life  the  poor  woman 
has  the  largest  number  of  babies.  While  the  41  fiction  hero- 
ines of  the  middle-class  produce  only  three  children,  the 
eleven  fiction  heroines  of  the  poor  produce  nine  children. 



Class  "A"  Magazines 51   per  cent 

Class  "B"  Magazines 10  per  cent 

Class  "C"  Magazines 10  per  cent 


Class  "B"  Magazines 56  per  cent 

Class  "C"  Magazines 45  per  cent 

Class  "A"  Magazines 17  per  cent 


Class  "C**  Magazines 45  per  cent 

Class   "B"  Magazines 34  per  cent 

Class  "A"  Magazines 17  per  cent 

As  to  inter-class  relationships  the  typical  fictional  device 
is  the  Cinderella  theme,  either  straight,  Poor  Girl  Marries 
Rich  Man,  or  in  reverse,  Poor  Boy  Marries  Rich  Girl,  the  latter 
being  apparently  more  popular.  Proletarian  characters  are  fre- 
quently encountered  in  Class  "A"  sex  fiction.  It  would 

appear  that  the  readers  of  the  Class  "A"  magazines  like  to 
parasite  emotionally  upon  the  richer  sexual  life  of  the  poor. 
The  bulk  of  American  magazines  are  read  by  the  middle 
class,  the  $2,000  to  $5,000  income  group.  In  the  case  of  ten 
magazines  which  we  have  selected  as  representative  types,  5 1 
per  cent  of  the  circulation  goes  to  the  middle  class.  Twenty 
women's  magazines,  studied  by  Daniel  Starch,  show  about  the 
same  percentage;  57  per  cent  of  them  have  middle-class  read- 
ers. The  fact  that  the  middle-class  woman  is  the  principal 
reader  of  mass  and  class  circulation  magazines  is  important  to 
keep  in  mind  in  considering  what  we  feel  to  be  one  of  the 
significant  findings  of  the  study.  The  editor  of  the  typical 
mass  circulation  magazine,  usually  a  man,  addresses  himself 
primarily  to  the  restless  unhappy  middle-class  woman.  The 
fiction  exploits  rather  than  resolves  this  unhappiness,  just  as 
the  advertising  exploits  the  emulative  things-obsessed  psy- 
chology of  this  woman,  which  it  would  seem  arises  chiefly 
from  her  sexual  frustration.  Here  are  two  quotations  which 
exhibit  the  condition  of  this  middle-class  woman. 

(1)  "Quite  suddenly,  without  warning,  Diana  realized  that  her 
marriage  had   been  a   losing  fight.   A  mistake   as  far   as  her   own 
interior  happiness  was  concerned.  .  .  .  She  could  still  go  on  gal- 
lantly— picking    strawberries,    heating    rolls,    brewing    coffee.    But 
somehow  the  glamour,  the  excitement  was  gone.  Neal  seemed  to  be 
just  a  man,  she  just  a  woman,  there  seemed  no  particular  reason  for 
their  being  together."   (Kathleen  Norris.  "Three  Men  and  Diana/' 
American  Magazine) 

(2)  "The  second  period  in  a  woman's  life  is  when,  after  many 
strenuous  years   of   adjustment    toward   husband   and   family,    she 
feels  entitled  to  let  her  own  personality  have  full  scope.  She  wants 
to  forget  as  much  as  possible  those  difficult  years,  she  wants  to  live 
her  own  life,  to  entertain  her  own  friends  in  her  own  background. 
By  this  time  plain  Romeo  has  turned  into  Mr.  Romeo  Babbitt,  but 
there  is  no  Mrs.  Babbitt.  There  is  instead  a  gracious  woman  in  the 
prime  of  life  who  has  matured  in  excellence  like  old  wine — and  the 


cask  must  be  adequate."   (Daisy  Fellowes.  "Home,  Sweet  Home." 
Harper's  Bazaar) 

We  have  already  noted  the  inverse  ratio  of  sex  deficiency 
and  emulation.  Material  emulation  and  snobbism  are  appar- 
ently substitutes  for  sexual  satisfaction.  From  the  point  of 
view  of  a  commercial  publisher  interested  in  achieving  a 
maximum  "reader  interest"  for  his  advertisers  the  ideal  sub- 
scriber to  a  middle-class  woman's  magazine  is  the  woman 
who  has  never  experienced  the  full  physical  and  emotional 
satisfactions  of  sex;  who  is  more  or  less  secure  in  her  eco- 
nomic position  and  who  determinedly  compensates  her  sexual 
frustration  by  becoming  an  ardent  and  responsive  buyer. 

One  of  the  most  frequent  charges  leveled  against  Ameri- 
can culture  is  that  it  is  woman-dominated.  Women,  it  is  said, 
read  the  books,  attend  the  concerts  and  exhibitions,  run  the 
charities,  figure  increasingly  in  politics,  etc.  The  inference  is 
that  our  cultural  deficiencies  are  caused  by  this  domination  of 
the  woman,  for  which  various  explanations  have  been  of- 

Our  examination  of  the  magazine  literature  leads  us  to 
question  the  accuracy  of  this  picture.  Is  it  women  who  have 
created  this  ad-man's  pseudoculture?  Is  it  women  who  own 
and  direct  these  commercial  enterprises  of  mass  publications? 
No,  it  is  predominantly  men.  It  may  also  be  alleged  that  it  is 
the  stupidity  of  men  which  is  largely  responsible  for  the 
sexual  and  emotional  frustration  of  the  typical  middle -class 
woman.  The  result  of  the  middle-class  woman's  physical  or 
emotional  frustration  is  not  that  she  compensates  by  achieving 
a  culture  superior  to  that  of  the  man.  A  much  truer  state- 
ment would  be  that  the  exploitation  of  the  dilemma  of  these 
women  by  men  has  helped  to  bring  about  the  collapse  of 
culture  in  the  United  States.  It  is  significant  to  note  in  this 
connection  that  it  is  precisely  in  the  women's  magazines  that 
sophistication  tends  to  disappear.  Of  the  five  women's  maga- 

zines  examined,  four  devoted  less  than  three  per  cent  of  their 
article  and  editorial  space  to  sophistication. 

In  summarizing  the  sex  content  of  the  magazines  it  is 
sufficient  merely  to  note  that  it  is  almost  incredibly  thin  and 
vapid,  useless  as  instruction,  and  deficient  in  thrills. 


In  the  thirteen  magazines  examined,  we  find  God  men- 
tioned once  in  a  fiction  story  and  twice  in  poems.  Art  is  men- 
tioned only  by  Arts  &  Decoration.  Science,  which  gets  full 
if  crude  treatment  in  Hearst's  American  Weekly,  is  en- 
countered in  only  one  other  magazine,  Liberty,  which  con- 
tains a  story  by  Edgar  Rice  Burroughs,  "Tarzan  and  the 
Lion  Man,"  in  which  the  author  has  a  paragraph  or  two 
about  the  imaginary  genesis  of  his  hybrid. 


Of  the  four  criteria  for  sophistication  referred  to  in  earlier 
chapters  only  one,  the  treatment  of  the  depression,  proved  to 
be  important  in  quantity  or  revealing  in  content.  Photo- 
play, Arts  &  Decoration  and  Harper's  Bazaar  do  not  mention 
the  depression  at  all.  The  negative  response  to  the  depression 
takes  the  form  of  a  repudiation  of  the  acquisitive  culture  and 
a  turning  back  in  time  to  the  older  American  virtues  and 
the  older  American  pattern  of  life. 

(i)  "Looking  back  [to  the  days  when  her  husband,  now  a 
farm-hand,  had  an  $8,000  a  year  salary]  it  seems  as  if  we  never 
found  anything  very — very  real  to  quarrel  about.  And  the  queer 
thing  is  I  know  we  were  both  rather  clever  then.  We  weren't 
stupefied  with  work,  the  way  we  are  now.  I  suppose  that  must  be 
the  answer.  If  I  weren't  too  tired  to  think  clearly,  I'd  be  able  to 
see  some  sense  to  it.  It  actually  seems  as  if  there  were  more  dullness 
and  stupidity  in  those  smart  squabbles  about  books  and  plays  and 


clothes  and  places  to  eat  than  there  is  in  sitting  here — like  dumb 
animals,  too  tired  to  talk,  contented  because  we're  warm,  and  fed, 
and  alive." 

(Hugh  McNair  Kahler,   "Winter  Harvest."   Saturday   Evening 

(2)  "Jonathan  could  not  understand  his  sister's  passionate  loyalty 
to  the  old  house.  He  worshipped  the  modern,  the  technical,  the 
efficient.  It  was  this  that  had  made  him  persuade  his  brother  to 
abandon  the  leather  factory,  with  its  century-old  reputation  for 
honesty  and  fair  dealing  and  follow  the  will-o'-the-wisp  of  fortune 
with  the  vacuum  cleaners.  Their  story  was  the  story  of  dozens  of 
small  industries. 

"  'Listen  to  me,  Jonathan/  said  Charlotte  coldly,  'I  want  to 
read  you  a  few  lines  from  this  book.'  She  read,  her  voice  trembling 
with  the  intensity  of  her  feeling: 

!t  'Never  the  running  stag,  the  gull  at  wing, 
The  pure  elixir,  the  American  Thing.  .  .  .' 

"  'It's  that — "The  American  Thing" — we've  got  away  from  it, 
from  everything  we  stood  for.  And  now  we're  going  back  to  it. 
.  .  .  Look  at  the  farmers.  They've  got  food  they  can't  sell — but 
no  money.  We'll  take  their  leather  goods  in  exchange  for  food  and 
hides.'  .  .  . 

"  'But  that's  barter,'  Jonathan  gasped. 

"  'Savagery.' 

"Bartlett  looked  at  her  steadily.  .  .  .  'Barter,'  he  said,  at  length 
'Ancient  as  the  hills  and  modern  as  tomorrow'."  (Francis  Sill  Wick- 
ware.  "The  American  Thing."  Woman's  Home  Companion.) 

In  considering  the  positive  response  to  the  depression  a 
brief  summary  of  the  essential  characteristics  of  these  class 
cultures  will  be  useful.  In  magazines  read  by  the  poor,  fear 
and  sex  are  dominant  and  emulation  is  negligible.  The  middle- 
class  are  immunized  against  fear,  exhibit  a  definite  sex  de- 
ficiency and  are  strong  in  emulation:  they  are  the  climbers. 
In  magazines  going  to  the  rich,  fear  reappears,  and  sex  is 
exploited  chiefly  for  its  mercenary  or  amusement  value.  Since 
these  magazines  primarily  exploit  the  climbing  nouveau  riche, 


emulation  is  very  strong  and  is  reinforced  by  a  tremendous 
preoccupation  with  "things."  An  example  of  the  mercenary 
characteristic  of  the  rich  as  exhibited  in  the  high  income  maga- 
zines is  the  following: 

"  'My  dear  Mr.  Sherrard,'  he  said,  'as  a  man  of  the  world,  you 
will  at  once  comprehend  the  situation.  My  wife  and  I  are  devoted 
to  each  other;  unfortunately,  we  have  no  money.  Not-a-single-sou.' 
He  paused  to  let  this  sink  in,  then  continued  blandly  as  before.  'Our 
tastes  are  what  might  be  described  as  traditionally  extravagant.  We 
can't  help  it,  we  inherit  them  from  our  ancestors.  Together,  our  life, 
save  for  a  few  moments  of  bliss,  is  impossible.  Apart,  we  simply 
cannot  prevent — I  repeat,  cannot  prevent — money  coming  to  us  ir 
large  quantities.  It  is  odd.' 

*  'Very,'  agreed  Sherrard. 

"  'I  know  what  you  are  thinking:  that  it  would  be  more  nc 
starve  than  acquire  such  money.  But  then  we  are  not  noble- 
that  way'."   (Margery  Sharp.  "Immoral  Story."  Harper's 

Where,  in  a  transitional  period,  do  the  readers  Ox 
magazines  think  they  are  going?  Before  attempting  to  answc 
this  question,  it  is  worth  noting  that  the  letters  from  readers 
warrant  the  belief  that  the  readers  are  going  somewhere  much 
faster  than  the  editors  would  like. 

The  American  Magazine  represents  the  lower  middle-class 
male;  the  Saturday  Evening  Post,  the  upper  middle-class  male; 
Nation's  Business,  the  rich.  How  do  the  men  of  these  different 
classes  regard  the  future  of  business  and  of  government?  The 
American  Magazine  is  behind  the  New  Deal  sturdily  and 
optimistically.  None  the  less,  in  a  pinch  it  is  clear  that  the 
typical  American  Magazine  reader  would  go  fascist.  This  is 
revealed  by  the  general  direction  of  the  articles  and  by  readers' 
letters.  The  Saturday  Evening  Post  is  belligerent  and  not 
frightened.  The  creed  of  the  Post  is  to  repel  every  invasion 
of  business  by  the  government.  It  professes  to  believe  that 


business  is  capable  of  running  the  country  without  govern- 
ment aid.  Whenever  this  illusion  breaks  down  the  magazine 
alertly  serves  its  readers  by  offering  optimistic  adaptations  to 
the  necessities  of  the  moment.  The  Post's  high  point  of  sophis- 
tication is  registered  in  the  following  quotation  which  is  the 
concluding  paragraph  of  an  article  by  Caret  Garrett  entitled 
"Washington  Miscellany." 

"The  law  of  necessity  hitherto  acting  [before  the  Roosevelt 
Administration]  was  a  law  of  nightmare.  For  that  it  is  proposed 
to  substitute  a  law  of  the  disciplined  event.  To  say  this  has  never 
happened  is  not  to  say  it  cannot  happen.  But  certainly  it  was  by 
the  other  way  that  the  world  grew  as  rich  as  it  is,  which  is  richer 
than  it  ever  was  before." 

The  Nation's  Business  is  too  near,  perhaps,  to  the  seats  of 
power  not  to  have  looked  over  the  edge  of  the  precipice  and 
to  have  become  doubtful.  "Capital  is  Scared,"  it  headlines, 
and  in  recording  the  timidity  of  investors  remarks:  "In  other 
words  they  wonder  whether  or  not  the  days  of  private  capi- 
talism are  numbered."  Curiously  the  editor  of  Nation's  Busi- 
ness seems  to  be  less  confident  that  Fascism  is  our  next  phase 
than  are  the  editors  of  the  Communist  Daily  Worker.  In 
reading  the  articles  and  editorials  of  Nation's  Business  one  gets 
the  impression  that  these  frightened  business  men  of  Wall 
Street,  and  of  the  provincial  chambers  of  commerce,  would 
not  be  surprised  if  they  awoke  tomorrow  morning  to  find  the 
revolution  on  their  doorsteps. 

With  regard  to  the  poor,  our  magazine  indices  are  True 
Story  and  the  famous  Vox  Pop  of  Liberty.  It  seems  clear  that 
Liberty  readers  comprise  a  high  percentage  of  war  generation 
males,  especially  Legionnaires.  Their  notion  of  a  revolution 
would  appear  to  be  a  miraculous  change  of  political  adminis- 
tration whereby  suddenly  everybody  would  get  $5,000  a  year. 
In  the  lack  of  such  miracles  they  advocate  homespun  nostrums 


like  the  scrapping  of  machines,  going  back  to  the  land,  etc. 
While  it  is  clear  that  the  readers  of  Liberty  are  not  sophisti- 
cated radicals,  labor  legislation,  technological  unemployment, 
and  the  revolution  get  mentioned  in  the  Vox  Pop  pages. 
Whether  the  Liberty  readers  go  fascist  or  communist  would 
appear  to  depend  upon  the  energy  and  astuteness  which  one  or 
the  other  party  manifests  in  proselytizing  and  mobilizing 

True  Story  is  a  mine  of  sophistication  data  regarding  the 
poor.  The  editors  write  about  the  family  problems  created 
by  the  depression  and  invite  contributions  on  the  subject 
from  their  readers,  but  the  absorption  with  these  problems 
is  clearly  evident  in  the  fiction  as  well.  To  the  poor,  poverty 
is  a  perpetual  problem,  in  good  as  well  as  in  bad  times.  It  is 
the  unique  distinction  of  True  Story  among  the  magazines 
examined  that  it  is  the  only  one  which  contains  stories  about 
the  poor.  Despite  the  fakery  which  is  apparent  in  much  of 
this  fiction,  there  is  also  much  genuinely  revealing  stuff.  In 
the  issue  examined,  four  of  the  nine  fiction  stories  deal  with 
the  working  class  and  two  deal  with  the  very  poor. 

As  already  noted,  the  fiction  writers  for  True  Story  recog- 
nize that  the  way  out  for  the  poor  is  crime.  In  the  following 
quotation  there  is  presented  a  typical  white-collar  depression 
dilemma.  The  story  concerns  a  burdened  father  who,  unwill- 
ing to  seek  the  way  out  through  crime,  kills  himself  in  such 
a  way  that  his  family  may  collect  the  insurance  and  pay  their 

"  'You  know,  Lois,  the  rottenest  part  of  it  all  is  Dad,'  he  said 
slowly.  .  .  .  "Dad  hasn't  had  much  out  of  life.  Mother's  a  swell 
person  in  her  way,  but  she's  certainly  made  his  life  miserable.  He's 
crazy  about  us — about  all  his  kids — but  we've  cost  him  an  awful  lot 
and  I  don't  think  we've  given  him  much  in  return.  When  I  look  at 
Dad  and  think  of  all  the  years  he's  striven  beyond  his  strength,  of 
all  the  things  he's  gone  without  to  give  us  things — of  how  little  he's 


had  out  of  life,  I  get  sick  inside.  He's  a  man  made  for  cheerfulness, 
and  freedom  and  happy-go-lucky  ways.  And  he's  been  harnessed  to 
routine  and  duties  and  schedules  all  his  life.  And  for  what?  He's 
ended  in  disgrace  and  failure.  No  matter  what  we  think — and  we 
don't  think  he's  a  disgrace  and  a  failure — that's  what  it  boils  down 
to  in  the  eyes  of  the  world. 

"  'A  letter  from  Papa — a  letter.  .  .  .  He's  going  to  commit 
suicide.  .  .  .  He's  doing  it  for  us.  ...  You  can  see  for  yourself. 
He  thinks  he's  no  good,  and  that  he'll  never  land  another  job  at  his 
age.  He  wants  to  leave  us  his  insurance.  He  knows  that'll  wipe  out 
every  debt  we  have  and  start  us  fresh.  It's  all  he  has  to  give — and 
he's  willing'." 

("Desperate  Days."  True  Story.) 

The  alternative  to  crime  as  a  way  out  would  appear  to  be 
suicide.  But  what  happens  when  the  poor  do  essay  crime  as  a 
way  out  of  their  dilemmas?  The  following  quotation  is  taken 
from  a  story  dealing  with  the  very  poor. 

"It  was  the  first  motion  picture  I  had  ever  seen,  despite  the  fact 
that  our  little  hamlet  had  boasted  two  shows  weekly  for  many  years. 
.  .  .  We  walked  ten  miles  to  the  next  town.  .  .  .  Jimmie's  pockets 
were  bulging  with  the  life  savings  of  his  aunt,  while  he  let  me 
believe  the  money  was  rightfully  his.  ...  In  my  talks  with  Jimmie, 
I  came  to  see  a  change  in  him.  He  laughed  about  the  decencies  of 
life,  about  the  people  who  worked  hard  for  their  bread,  about  the 
poor  people  who  stood  for  oppression  from  the  rich.  .  .  .  The  well 
defined  line  between  right  and  wrong  seemed  to  grow  fainter  as 
the  days  passed.  Sometimes  I  thought  Jimmie  was  right  about  the 
unfairness  of  things  and  our  privilege  to  make  up  for  it  outside 
the  law.  .  .  . 

"Jimmie  was  sentenced  first,  and  taken  to  prison  several  days  be- 
fore my  sentence  was  fixed.  As  he  passed  the  women's  cells,  I  could 
hear  him  singing  'Let  the  Rest  of  the  World  Go  By.'  He  was  trying 
to  be  a  good  sport.  .  .  .  Club  women  called  on  me  and  tried  in 
their  mechanical  way  to  preach  morals  to  me.  Their  visits  served 
only  to  antagonize  me.  All  the  time  they  were  talking,  my  heart 


cried  out  'But  you've  had  a  chance  in  life.  You  had  love  and  home 
and  friends.  I  didn't  want  to  steal.  Jimmie  was  sick,  and  I  was  scared 
he'd  die,  if  I  didn't  help  him  get  the  stuff.'  My  lips  did  not  form  the 
words.  In  fact  I  hardly  spoke  to  them  at  all.  I  scowled  my  hatred  at 
them,  and  saved  my  tears  for  my  pillowless  bunk." 
("His  Mother's  Confession."  True  Story.) 

The  conclusion  indicates  that  crime,  that  is  theft,  is  no  way 
out  after  all  since  the  wages  of  crime  is  jail.  It  is  estimated 
that  the  poor,  that  is  to  say,  those  having  less  than  $2,000  a 
year,  constitute  over  75  per  cent  of  the  total  population. 
Where  are  they  going  in  this  transitional  period?  It  seems  clear 
that  a  considerable  percentage  of  the  readers  of  True  Story 
are  desperate  and  cynical  about  the  possibility  of  escape  from 
their  dilemmas  by  any  other  route  than  the  crime  route. 
Clearly  that  route  is  being  increasingly  followed  as  Abraham 
Epstein  notes  in  "Insecurity,  A  Challenge  to  America,"  when 
he  points  out  that  since  the  depression  the  total  value  of 
insurances  policies  lapsed  for  inability  to  pay  amounts  to 
$3,000,000,000,  and  that  the  prisoners  admitted  to  Sing  Sing 
for  robbery  have  increased  by  70  per  cent.  It  would  seem 
apparent  that  here  we  have  a  nexus  of  potential  revolutionary 
material,  inert  at  the  moment,  but  capable  of  mobilization 
by  an  able  revolutionary  leader  who  could  show  a  practical 
way  out,  other  than  the  way  of  crime. 

Recently  in  talking  to  a  group  of  business  men  who  were 
re-focusing  their  advertising  expenditures  upon  the  narrowing 
sector  of  the  population  which  represents  any  exploitable  buy- 
ing power,  I  raised  the  question  as  to  what  business  intended 
doing  with  these  extra-economic  men.  The  answer  was 
"Nothing."  The  assumption  so  far  as  I  could  gather  seemed 
to  be  that  the  surplusage  of  the  population  would  starve  peace- 
ably and  eliminate  itself.  I  recommended  the  reading  of  True 
Story  to  these  bemused  plutocrats.  It  seems  very  clear  that  the 
readers  of  True  Story  will  not  starve  peaceably. 


Here  then  we  have  the  spectrum  of  the  ad-man's  pseudo- 
culture  as  revealed  by  its  mass  and  class  magazine  literature. 

Is  it  desirable  to  rehabilitate  this  ad-man's  pseudoculture? 
The  question  is  somewhat  beside  the  point  since  history  does 
not  evolve  by  a  series  of  moral  or  esthetic  choices.  A  culture 
is  rejected,  not  because  it  is  ugly  and  unjust,  but  because  it  is 
not  viable.  The  more  pertinent  question,  therefore,  is:  "Is  it 
possible  to  rehabilitate  this  pseudoculture?"  The  answer  here 
is  the  same  answer  which  must  be  given  to  the  question:  "Is  it 
possible  to  rehabilitate  the  capitalist  economy?"  The  capitalist 
economy  can  survive  as  long  as  it  can  validate  its  rising  mound 
of  paper  titles  to  ownership  and  income  by  the  enslavement 
of  labor  and  by  progressive  imperial  conquests.  The  capitalist 
culture — the  ad-man's  pseudoculture — can  survive  as  long  as 
it  can  give  some  substance  to  the  traditional  concept  of  indi- 
vidual opportunity;  the  ability  of  the  able  individual  to  rise 
out  of  his  class.  The  economy  and  the  culture  are  Siamese 
Twins;  or  rather,  they  are  aspects  of  the  same  thing.  Examina- 
tion of  this  magazine  literature  reveals  clearly  that  the  demo- 
cratic dogma  is  dying  if  not  already  dead;  that  the  emulative 
culture  is  not  accessible  to  the  poor  and  to  the  lower  middle- 
class;  that  the  poor  are  oriented  toward  crime,  and  potentially 
at  least,  toward  revolution;  that  the  middle  classes  are  oriented 
toward  fascism.  In  short,  the  ad-man's  pseudoculture  is  not 
satisfying.  To  be  effectively  exploited  it  must  be  diluted  with 
elements  derived  from  the  older  culture  and  with  some  meas- 
ure of  sophistication  and  service,  particularly  with  respect  to 
the  lower  income  groups.  Its  decadence  parallels  rather  strictly 
the  decadence  of  the  capitalist  economy.  Historically,  the 
ad-man's  pseudoculture  will  probably  be  regarded  as  a  very 
frail  and  ephemeral  thing. 

We  must  therefore  conclude  that  this  culture,  or  pseudo- 
culture,  is  not  viable,  hence  cannot  be  rehabilitated.  This 
conclusion  will  be  regarded  as  optimistic,  or  pessimistic,  de- 
pending upon  the  point  of  view  of  the  reader. 





ASK  a  child  who  is  just  beginning  to  read:  "What  is  a  news- 
paper? What  is  a  magazine?"  He  will  speak  of  news  and 
fiction  and  advertising  as  integral  parts  of  the  same  thing. 
Explain  and  argue  as  much  as  you  like,  you  will  not  be  able 
to  disturb  his  primitive  conviction  that  the  advertising  is  not 
just  as  much  a  part  of  the  paper  as  the  news,  and  that,  if  the 
thing  is  to  make  sense,  it  has  to  make  sense  as  a  unit.  Tell  him 
that  the  news  and  editorials  represent  one  thing,  one  respon- 
sibility, one  ethic,  one  function,  one  purpose;  that  the  adver- 
tising represents  another  thing,  another  responsibility,  an- 
other purpose.  He  nods  vaguely  and  gives  it  up. 

In  other  words,  the  child's  instinct  leads  him  to  precisely 
the  same  conclusion  as  that  set  forth  and  documented  in  the 
preceding  study  of  the  magazines. 

Advertising,  in  the  broadest  sense  of  the  word,  is  as  old  as 
trade.  The  definition  offered  by  Frank  Presbrey  in  his  "His- 
tory and  Development  of  Advertising  would  seem  to  be 
sufficiently  broad  and  accurate.  To  quote  it  again:  "Adver- 
tising is  printed,  written,  or  graphic  salesmanship  deriving 
from  oral  salesmanship."  The  modern  spread  and  intensified 
use  of  the  instrument  in  America  is  made  possible  by  our 
almost  universal  literacy.  But  ancient  graphic  and  written 
advertising  exhibits  a  functional  relationship  to  the  then 
current  nexus  of  economic  and  social  fact  which  is  strikingly 
similar  to  the  contemporary  set-up. 

The  Babylonian  temples  were  built  of  sun-baked  bricks. 
Each  brick  was  stamped  with  the  name  of  the  temple  and  the 
name  of  the  king  who  built  it.  The  temples  were  advertising, 
just  as  the  Woolworth  and  Chrysler  Buildings  are  adver- 
tising. There  is  even  some  justice  in  Presbrey's  observation 
that  these  temples  represented  "an  institutional  campaign  con- 
ducted by  the  kings  in  behalf  of  themselves  and  their  dynas- 

The  Rosetta  Stone  is  a  eulogy  of  Ptolemy  Epiphanes,  dating 
from  156  B.C.,  in  three  languages:  Coptic,  hieroglyphs  and 
Greek.  It  was  erected  by  the  local  priests  in  gratitude  for  a 
remission  of  taxes.  The  priests  were,  in  effect,  the  local  satraps 
of  Ptolemy  and  the  Rosetta  Stone  was  functional  with  respect 
to  the  discharge  of  their  responsibility.  It  was  necessary  to 
"sell"  Ptolemy  to  the  people,  and  probably  the  priests  acted 
at  the  suggestion,  certainly  with  the  approval  of  their  over- 

When  President  Roosevelt  was  inaugurated  he  proceeded 
more  directly.  Using  the  modern  instrumentality  of  the  radio, 
he  sold  the  American  people  on  the  closing  of  the  banks  and 
the  incidental  wiping  out  of  perhaps  $6,000,000,000  of  their 
savings.  The  priests — the  radio  broadcasters — contributed 
free  time,  and  the  other  priests — the  newspapers — contributed 
enthusiastic  approval  and  applause.  With  the  evidence  of  this 
and  later  triumphs  of  government-as-advertising  before  us,, 
those  primitive  Babylonian  practitioners  seem  hopelessly  out- 

Since  literacy  was  the  privilege  of  a  minority,  the  Baby- 
lonian tradesmen  used  barkers  and  symbols.  Later,  inscrip- 
tions were  employed.  Lead  sheets  found  in  ancient  Greek 
temples  affirmed  the  rights  of  property  by  cursing  the 
sacrilegious  people  who  did  not  return  lost  articles  to  their 
owners.  In  ancient  Greece  the  arts  of  elocution  and  music 
were  functional  with  respect  to  trade;  the  Greek  auctioneer 


was  an  elocutionist  and  was  usually  accompanied  by  a  mu- 

The  word  "libel"  is  Latin.  In  ancient  Rome  a  libel  was  a 
public  denouncement  of  an  absconding  debtor. 

It  seems  probable  that  advertising  was  more  or  less  profes- 
sionalized in  very  ancient  times.  For  example  there  is  some 
reason  for  believing  that  the  walls  of  ancient  Pompeii  may 
have  been  controlled  by  a  commercial  contractor.  Early  post- 
ers were  inscriptions  announcing  theatrical  performances  and 
sports,  and  commending  the  facilities  of  commercial  baths. 
Presbrey  renders  one  such  advertisement  as  follows:  "The 
troop  of  gladiators  of  the  sedil  will  fight  on  the  3ist  of  May. 
There  will  be  fights  with  wild  animals,  and  an  awning  to 
keep  out  the  sun." 

With  the  break-up  of  the  Roman  Empire,  advertising  shared 
the  general  obscuration  of  the  middle  ages.  Says  Presbrey, 
"For  nearly  a  thousand  years,  following  the  decline  of  Rome, 
advertising  made  no  progress.  Instead,  it  went  backward, 
following  the  retreating  steps  of  civilization." 

When  the  profession  re-emerges,  it  is  under  the  changed 
conditions  of  the  medieval  church-state.  A  decree  of  Philip 
Augustus  in  1280  proclaims: 

"Whosoever  is  a  crier  in  Paris  may  go  to  any  tavern  he 
likes  and  cry  its  wine,  provided  they  sell  wine  from  the  wood 
and  there  is  no  other  crier  provided  for  that  tavern;  and  the 
tavern  keeper  cannot  prohibit  him.  If  a  crier  finds  people 
drinking  in  a  tavern  he  may  ask  what  they  pay  for  the  wine 
they  drink;  and  he  may  go  out  and  cry  the  wine  at  the  prices 
they  pay,  whether  the  tavern  keeper  wishes  it  or  not,  provided 
always  that  there  be  no  other  crier  employed  for  that  tavern." 

The  "just  price"  for  which  the  crier  served  was  four 
dinarii  a  day.  It  was  further  provided  that  if  the  tavern 
keeper  closed  his  door  against  the  crier,  the  latter  might  cry 
wine  at  the  price  of  the  king's  wine,  and  claim  his  fee. 

Perhaps  the  last  proviso  gives  a  clue  to  the  motivation  of 

Philip  Augustus'  proclamation.  The  king  was  in  the  wine  busi- 
ness, too,  and  was  accordingly  interested  in  the  education  and 
expansion  of  the  market.  The  king's  wine  was  to  be  sold  at 
a  given  price,  which  provided  a  measuring  stick  for  competi- 
tion and  was  doubtless  a  factor  in  price  maintenance. 

As  one  might  expect,  the  re-birth  of  advertising  coincides 
with  the  expansion  of  trade  in  Western  Europe  made  possible 
by  the  suppression  of  piracy  and  banditry  by  the  Hanseatic 
League.  In  the  sixteenth  century  the  chief  form  of  advertising 
was  the  poster.  It  was  called  a  si-quis  (if  anybody),  the  der- 
ivation being  from  the  Roman  lost  article  posters.  Most 
si-quis  were  want  advertisements.  The  chief  billboard  in  Lon- 
don was  St.  Paul's  Cathedral,  which  was  crowded  with 
lawyers,  seamstresses,  etc.,  seeking  clients.  Like  the  modern 
office  building  or  railroad  terminal  the  sixteenth-century 
church  also  contained  tobacco  shops  and  bookstalls.  Tobacco, 
coffee  and  books  were  among  the  first  products  advertised. 
It  is  in  connection  with  the  exploitation  of  literature  by  ad- 
vertising that  one  encounters,  with  a  glow  of  pleasure,  no 
less  a  person  than  Ben  Jonson,  in  his  usual  role  of  objector 
and  satirist. 

In  Every  Man  out  of  his  Humor,  one  of  the  characters  is 
Shift,  who  haunts  St.  Paul's  "for  the  advancement  of  a  si-quis 
or  two,  wherein  he  hath  so  varied  himself  that  if  any  of  them 
take  he  may  hull  himself  up  and  down  in  the  humorous  world 
a  little  longer."  By  1600  handbills  and  placards  in  behalf  of 
books  became  so  common  that  Jonson  enjoined  his  bookseller 
to  use  his  works  for  wrapping  paper  rather  than  promote 
them  by  the  sensational  methods  then  in  use. 

The  objection  is  particularly  interesting  as  coming  from 
Jonson,  who,  although  he  had  been  successively  a  bricklayer, 
a  soldier  and  a  playwright,  was  by  nature  a  scholar-poet,  and 
an  intellectual  aristocrat.  He  probably  felt,  like  the  modern 
historians  Morrison  and  Commager,  that  advertising  had  al- 
ready "elevated  mendacity  to  the  status  of  a  profession."  He 


tolerated  the  noble  patrons  to  whom  he  dedicated  his  works 
because  they  helped  to  support  him;  but  he  clearly  despised 
the  "new  people,"  the  middle-class  business  men,  who,  having 
tasted  the  sweets  of  profit  in  the  expanding  market,  were 
marshaling  their  forces  for  the  later  conquests  of  manufac- 
turing and  commerce. 

Art  was  conscripted  into  the  service  of  trade  when  Hogarth 
was  employed  at  making  inn  signs  and  illustrating  handbills 
for  tradesmen,  including  one  advertising  himself  as  an  en- 
graver and  another  for  his  sisters,  who  were  designers  of 

By  the  end  of  the  seventeenth  century  the  apparatus  of 
poster  and  handbill  advertising  was  functioning  at  full  blast 
within  the  limits  set  by  the  still  primitive  facilities  of  trans- 
port and  communication.  Practically  all  the  stigmata  of  the 
modern  practice  of  advertising  were  present.  The  greed  and 
social  irresponsibility  of  the  advertiser  expressed  itself  in 
sweeping  claims  and  cheerful  misrepresentation;  his  tasteless- 
ness  in  bad  art  and  worse  English.  The  seventeenth  century 
trader  was  a  go-getting  fellow — a  low  fellow  coming  up,  with 
nothing  to  lose  in  the  matter*  of  social  status  and  a  world  of 
profit  to  gain.  The  nobility  and  the  princes  of  the  church 
denounced  him;  city  ordinances  were  passed  in  London  threat- 
ening with  severe  penalties  tradesmen  who  were  so  immodest 
as  to  advertise  the  prices  of  their  wares.  But  the  advertiser 
met  scorn  with  scorn  and  drove  the  logic  of  his  acquisitive 
opportunity  always  harder  and  higher.  A  French  visitor  to 
London  in  the  middle  of  the  eighteenth  century  comments  on 
the  huge  and  ridiculous  ornamentation  of  the  shop  signs,  As 
some  of  the  early  prints  made  us  realize,  the  streets  of  seven- 
teenth century  London  were  scarcely  less  vulgar  and  com- 
mercial than  the  Great  White  Way  of  modern  New  York. 

Business,  however,  still  lacked  its  major  tool,  the  press.  It 
is  upon  the  evolution  of  this  instrument  that  we  must  now 
concentrate  our  attention. 

It  cannot  be  too  strongly  emphasized  that  the  press  begins 
and  ends  as  an  instrument  of  government,  whether  official 
or  unofficial,  actual,  or  potential  and  aspiring.  What  it  is  today 
it  was  in  its  earliest  beginnings.  The  invention  of  printing 
approximately  coincided  with  the  early  struggles  for  power 
of  the  rising  middle  class.  In  this  long  chess  game,  with  its 
shifting  alliances,  its  victories,  defeats  and  drawn  battles  and 
its  unstable  truces,  the  press  is  the  queen  without  whose  sup- 
port the  king,  the  official  ruler,  is  helpless:  a  most  bawdy, 
promiscuous  and  treacherous  queen,  whose  power  is  today 
threatened  by  a  new  backstairs  mistress,  the  radio.  The  press 
has  played  virtuous,  even  heroic  roles  in  the  past,  and  still 
does.  But  on  the  whole,  she  is  like  Archibald  MacLeish's  poet 
in  his  Invocation  to  the  Social  Muse:  She  sleeps  in  both  camps 
and  is  faithful  to  neither. 

Although  the  press  is  and  always  was  an  instrument  of 
government,  it  is  even  more  important  to  point  out  that  the 
press  came  to  birth  as  an  instrument  of  trade,  which  was 
aspiring  to  be  government.  From  her  earliest  memory  the 
infant  Messalina  was  rocked  in  the  cradle  of  business. 

In  1594  the  French  philosopher  Montaigne  published  an 
essay  entitled  Of  a  Defect  in  our  Policies  in  which  he  urged 
the  establishment  of  exchanges  for  tradesmen  and  buyers. 
As  a  result  a  "Bureau  D'Affiches"  was  established  in  Paris. 
It  functioned  for  only  a  brief  period  and  was  followed  by  a 
quite  obvious  technical  advance,  the  publication  of  a  Journal 
D'Affiches  (Journal  of  Public  Notices)  which  is  said  to  be 
the  first  periodical  in  the  history  of  Western  Europe.  The 
first  issue  appeared  Oct.  14,  1612.  It  was  a  want-ad  medium, 
no  more  and  no  less — newspaper  of,  by  and  for  trade,  and 
this  it  has  continued  to  be  for  more  than  300  years.  It  is  now 
called  Les  Petites  Affiches,  and  is  still  a  periodical  of  want-ads 
and  public  notices.  An  humble  and  virtuous  creature,  Les 
Petites  Affiches — the  Martha  of  newspaperdom.  Let  us  keep 
her  in  mind  when  we  come  to  study  the  careers  of  her  suc- 


cessors  and  rivals,  the  Marys,  Ninons,  Carmens  and  Messalinas 
who  have  relegated  her  to  her  present  comfortable  and  re- 
spectable bourgeois  obscurity. 

Trade,  then,  was  news,  and  trade  plus  printer's  ink  became 
advertising,  but  still  news.  Abortive  public  registers  were 
chartered  by  James  I  and  Charles  I  in  England.  Henry  Walker 
published  his  Perfect  Occurences  in  1649 — this  being  a  house 
organ  for  his  Public  Register  or  Enterance.  But  government 
was  jealous  of  the  emergent  fourth  estate.  Perfect  Occurences 
was  suppressed  in  1650  and  Walker's  Public  Registry,  being 
deprived  of  advertising,  soon  died. 

But  the  forces  of  the  trading  class,  with  God,  as  usual, 
conscripted  under  their  banner,  were  marching  toward  the 
conquest  of  power.  In  1657  Marchmont  Needham,  Crom- 
well's official  journalist,  was  publishing  the  bi-weekly  Mer- 
curius  Politicus  and  Publick  Intelligencer.  He  established 
eight  offices  of  "public  advice"  in  London  and  in  1657  ob- 
tained permission  from  Cromwell  to  issue,  in  addition  to  the 
news  letter,  a  weekly  sheet  called  the  Publick  Adviser.  All  the 
advertisements,  then  called  "advices,"  were  of  the  same  size. 
The  fees  were  four  shillings  for  a  workman,  five  for  a  book- 
seller and  ten  for  a  physician.  Needham  had  a  monopoly 
advantage  and  used  it  ruthlessly.  When,  a  little  later,  he  raised 
his  prices,  the  indignant  tradesmen  denounced  him  as  "The 
Devil's  Half -Crown  Newsmonger." 

Since  the  news  letter  was  a  medium  for  the  literate  ex- 
clusively, it  was  natural  that  booksellers  were  among  the 
earliest  advertisers.  But  the  medicine  man  and  the  realtor 
were  also  early  on  the  scene.  Since  the  mass  market  for  food 
and  clothing  was  not  yet  literate,  such  advertisers  do  not  ap- 
pear until  later.  At  this  point  it  is  merely  important  to  note 
that  trade,  for  its  full  development,  required  universal  lit- 
eracy, and  that  the  later  use  of  public  funds  for  school  pur- 
poses was  conceivably  motivated  less  by  idealistic  considera- 
tions than  by  the  needs  of  trade. 


Cromwell's  Ironsides  were  business  men  out  for  power  and 
marching  under  the  banner  of  God.  They  needed  spiritual 
food,  and  when  Cromwell  marched  into  Scotland,  a  news- 
book  was  published  for  distribution  to  his  army  of  "Saints." 
Here  are  some  specimen  titles  of  the  books  advertised  in  that 
publication,  all  of  them  obviously  good  selling  copy  for  the 
Puritan  conquest  of  power,  just  as,  nearly  three  centuries 
later,  Bruce  Barton's  Man  Nobody  Knows  became  the  bible 
of  our  modern  Rotarian  saints,  marching  under  the  banner 
of  "Service": 

Hooks  and  eyes  for  Believers  Breeches 

A  Most  Delectable  Sweet  Perfumed  nosegay  for  God's 

saints  to  smell  at. 

The  spiritual  Mustard  pot  to  make  the  Soul  Sneeze  with 


Upon  the  restoration  in  1 660  Charles  II  quickly  put  a  stop 
to  that.  He  recognized  the  growing  power  of  the  press  by 
suppressing  it.  Instead,  a  two-page  publication  was  issued 
called  the  London  Gazette.  It  refused  to  carry  advertising  on 
the  ground  that  commercial  announcement  had  no  place  in 
a  "paper  of  intelligence,"  that  is  to  say,  a  newspaper  which 
presented  non-commercial  news.  As  a  matter  of  fact  the  Lon- 
don Gazette  was  an  official  government  newspaper  and  is  still 
published  as  such.  Later  in  the  reign  of  Charles  II  it  did  pub- 
lish advertisements,  but  in  a  separate  sheet.  The  monarchy 
continued  to  regard  the  press  as  a  government  function  and 
privilege.  In  1665  Roger  L 'Estrange  was  given  a  patent  as 
"Surveyor  of  the  Press"  which  included  the  exclusive  priv- 
ilege of  "writing,  printing  and  publishing  advertisements." 

The  amiable  monarch  was  not  averse  to  making  a  little 
money  out  of  trade,  although  he  doubtless  considered  the  up- 
start tradesmen  as  permanently  objectionable.  The  poet, 
Fleetwood  Sheppard,  who  was  one  of  his  favorites,  doubtless 


expressed  the  royal  view  when  he  wrote  the  following  criticism 
of  current  advertising  practice: 

They  [the  current  newsbooks  of  the  year  1657  when  this  was 
written]  have  now  found  out  another  quaint  device  in  their  trading. 
There  is  never  a  mountebank  who  either  by  professing  of  chemistry 
of  any  other  art  drains  money  from  the  people  of  the  nation  but 
these  arch-cheats  must  have  a  share  in  the  booty,  and  besides  filling 
up  his  paper,  which  he  knew  not  how  to  do  otherwise,  he  must 
have  a  feeling  to  authorize  the  charlatan  forsooth,  by  putting  him 
into  the  newsbook. 

Yet  Charles  II  himself,  shortly  after  his  accession,  was 
obliged  to  turn  advertiser,  as  witness  the  following  plaintive 
appeal  to  his  rascally  subjects: 

We  must  call  on  you  again  for  a  Black  Dog  between  the  grey- 
hound and  a  spaniel,  no  white  about  him  only  a  streak  on  his  breast, 
and  tayl  a  little  bobbed.  It  is  His  Majestie's  own  dog,  and  doubtless 
was  stolen.  Whoever  finds  him  may  acquaint  any  at  Whitehall,  for 
the  dog  was  better  known  at  Court  than  those  who  stole  him.  Will 
they  never  leave  robbing  His  Majesty?  Must  he  not  keep  a  dog? 

By  the  middle  of  the  eighteenth  century  a  considerable 
press,  whose  principal  support  derived  from  advertising,  was 
established  in  England  and  on  the  continent.  The  essence  of 
the  modern  phenomenon  had  been  achieved  and  its  essence 
was  clearly  recognized  by  contemporary  commentators.  We 
may  therefore  conclude  this  outline  of  the  early  history  of 
advertising  with  the  following  quotation  from  Dr.  Samuel 
Johnson,  writing  in  the  Idler  in  the  year  1759: 

Advertisements  are  now  so  numerous  that  they  are  very  negli- 
gently perused,  and  it  is  therefore  become  necessary  to  gain  atten- 
tion by  magnificence  of  promises  and  by  eloquence  sometimes 
sublime  and  sometimes  pathetic.  Promise,  large  promise,  is  the  soul 


of  an  advertisement  [Promise  them  everything  and  blow  hard,  said 
my  early  tutor,  the  sea  lion].  The  true  pathos  of  advertisements 
must  have  sunk  deep  into  the  heart  of  every  man  that  remembers 
the  zeal  shown  by  the  seller  of  the  anodyne  necklace,  for  the  ease 
and  safety  of  the  poor  toothing  infants  and  the  affection  with  which 
he  warned  every  mother  that  she  would  never  forgive  herself  if  her 
infant  should  perish  without  a  necklace.  .  .  .  The  trade  of  adver- 
tising is  now  so  near  to  perfection  that  it  is  not  easy  to  propose 
any  improvement.  But  as  every  art  ought  to  be  exercised  in  true 
subordination  to  the  public  good,  I  cannot  but  propose  it  as  a  moral 
question  to  these  masters  of  the  public  ear,  whether  they  do  not 
sometimes  play  too  wantonly  with  our  passions. 

Dr.  Johnson  wrote  as  a  good  liberal  of  his  period  and  his 
phrases  have  a  familiar  ring.  He  might  almost  have  been 
reviewing  a  volume  by  Stuart  Chase  or  applauding  the  de- 
mand of  Messrs.  Schlink  and  Kallet  for  a  new  law  to  restrain 
the  iniquities  and  hypocrisies  of  advertising.  In  justice  to 
these  writers  one  must  acknowledge  both  the  value  of  their 
exposures  and  the  even  more  significant  fact  that  all  three 
have  moved  steadily  leftward  in  their  political  orientation. 

What  the  good  doctor  did  not  see — and  contemporary 
liberals  seem  scarcely  more  acute — was  that,  given  a  literate 
population,  the  press  becomes  one  of  the  instruments  of  gov- 
ernment; that  if  the  press  is  financed  by  the  vested  property 
interests  of  business,  then  in  the  end  business  becomes  govern- 
ment. Finally,  the  good  doctor  should  have  realized  the  futility 
of  introducing  moral  and  ethical  values  into  a  trade  relation- 
ship. The  concepts  of  "good"  and  "bad"  suffer  a  sea  change 
in  this  relationship;  good  advertising  is  advertising  which 
makes  profits  and  bad  advertising  is  advertising  which  does 
not  make  profits.  Neither  the  "regulative"  attempts  of  gov- 
ernment nor  the  idealistic  campaigns  of  reformers  in  and  out 
of  advertising  will  seriously  affect  the  economic  determinants 
which  operate  in  this  relationship.  At  least  they  haven't  for 
over  three  hundred  years. 


Dr.  Johnson  felt  that  the  art  of  advertising  had  reached 
approximate  perfection  in  the  middle  of  the  eighteenth  cen- 
tury. In  a  sense  he  was  right.  The  archetypes  of  contemporary 
technical  practice  are  almost  all  to  be  found  in  the  newspaper 
and  handbill  advertising  of  that  period.  The  later  develop- 
ments have  been  chiefly  those  of  speed  and  spread,  with, 
however,  this  qualification:  these  developments  have  brought 
into  being  a  series  of  interlocking  vested  interests,  which, 
while  entailed  effects  of  the  underlying  economic  process,  have 
also  come  to  function  as  important  causes,  influencing  and 
even  determining  to  a  considerable  extent  the  subsequent 
evolution  of  our  civilization. 

The  point  of  view  adhered  to  in  this  book  is  that  of  regard- 
ing the  instruments  of  social  communication  as  instruments 
of  rule,  of  government.  In  this  view  the  people  who  control 
and  manage  our  daily  and  periodical  press,  radio,  etc.,  become 
a  sort  of  administrative  bureaucracy  acting  in  behalf  of  the 
vested  interests  of  business.  But  every  bureaucracy  becomes 
itself  a  vested  interest;  it  develops  its  own  will  to  expansion 
and  power.  Bureaucracies  are  likely  to  be  what  governments 
die  of.  In  Russia  a  bureaucracy  was  set  up,  theoretically,  to 
solve  the  tasks  of  socialist  construction,  and  gradually,  with 
the  coming  to  birth  of  the  classless  society  and  the  elimination 
of  the  conflicts  which  the  state  power  must  adjust  or  sup- 
press, to  "wither  away."  The  Russians  are  frank  in  confessing 
that  they  are  obliged  to  fight  the  tendency  of  their  bureau- 
cracy to  propagate  itself  verdantly.  This  struggle  in  fact  has 
been  and  is  one  of  the  most  difficult  tasks  of  the  socialist 

In  the  following  chapter  we  shall  consider  two  other  in- 
struments of  rule,  namely  education  and  propaganda,  and 
show  how  the  use  of  these  instruments  is  frequently  combined 
with  the  use  of  advertising. 




Advertising,  Propaganda,  Education 

MODERN  advertising  reaches  its  highest  expression  in  the 
United  States  and  under  the  political  and  social  forms  of  our 
democratic  institutions  and  concepts:  a  free  press,  popular 
education,  representative  government.  It  is  important  to  note 
that  the  contemporary  phenomenon  is  an  aspect  of  our  so- 
called  "surplus  economy,"  as  is  revealed  by  the  use  of  the 
phrase  "sales  resistance"  in  current  advertising  parlance. 
"Sales  resistance"  means  an  impedance  of  the  distributive 
function.  It  implies  a  lack  of  spontaneous  demand  for  the 
product  or  service  which  may  be  caused, 

(1)  By  the   inferiority  of  the   product   as  to  quality  or 
price  with  respect  to  competing  products. 

(2)  By  the  inertia  of  established  buying  patterns  in  the 
market  at  which  the  product  is  aimed. 

(3)  By  the  inter-industrial  competition,  as  for  example, 
brick  against  lumber  or  meat  against  cheese. 

(4)  By  the  inadequacy  of  the  class  or  mass  buying  power 
with  respect  to  the  volume  and  price  of  commodities  and 
services  offered  on  the  market. 

Although  existing  buying  power  is  ultimately  determina- 
tive, it  is  possible  to  manipulate  consumer  preferences  and 
the  division  of  the  consumer's  dollar  within  this  iron  limit. 
In  other  words  the  market  can  be  "educated" — or  propa- 
gandized— as  you  choose  to  put  it,  just  as  it  can  be  partially 
or  wholly  monopolized  and  the  controls  established  with  re- 


spect  to  volume  of  production,  distribution  and  price.  These 
are,  perhaps,  the  two  major  factors  in  the  obsolescence  of  the 
"law"  of  supply  and  demand. 

The  education,  or  manipulation  of  the  market  may  pro- 
ceed directly  through  the  advertising  of  the  product  by  the 
manufacturer  or  by  a  group  of  manufacturers  organized  as 
a  trade  association;  through  unsigned  publicity  prepared  and 
issued  by  the  manufacturer  or  his  agent;  through  the  more 
or  less  influenced  or  coerced  "co-operation"  of  the  daily  or 
periodical  press,  radio  and  cinema;  even  through  similar  in- 
fluences or  coercions  focused  upon  our  institutions  of  formal 
education.  Sometimes  all  four  methods  are  used.  A  few  typical 
examples  will  illustrate  the  nature  of  the  process,  its  detailed 
exposition  being  left  for  other  chapters. 

It  happens  that  a  single  manufacturer  dominates  the  mar- 
ket for  automobile  tire  valves,  caps  and  gauges.  He  stands 
to  profit,  therefore,  by  any  expansion  of  this  market.  Hence 
his  advertising  has  tended  to  be  primarily  "educational"; 
that  is  to  say,  it  tells  motorists  that  proper  inflation  adds  to 
the  durability  of  tires,  that  improper  inflation  is  dangerous; 
that  the  air  pressure  in  tires  should  be  frequently  tested, 
hence  the  motorist  should  own  his  own  gauge;  that  the  valves 
require  more  or  less  frequent  replacement. 

Note  that  all  this  "education"  is  sound  enough  on  the 
whole  and  in  the  consumer's  interest  as  well  as  that  of  the 
manufacturer  and  distributor.  Such  education,  or  promotion, 
can  be  achieved  more  economically,  on  the  whole,  by  publicity 
than  by  advertising,  since  the  publicizing  of  the  manufac- 
turer's name  and  the  brand  name  of  his  product,  is,  while 
desirable  in  view  of  actual  or  latent  competition,  not  essential. 

Many  newspapers  and  magazines  carry  columns  of  advice 
to  motorists;  the  editors  of  these  automobile  sections  and 
pages  can  readily  be  persuaded  to  publish  small  items  urging 
motorists  to  keep  the  tires  of  their  cars  properly  inflated; 
especially  if  the  manufacturer  or  his  agent  does  the  whole 

column  in  which  the  advice  about  tires  is  mixed  with  other 
standard  bits  of  information  and  warning.  This  relieves  the 
newspaper  or  magazine  staff  of  labor  and  expenditure;  some- 
times a  staff  member,  or  a  journalist  having  working  rela- 
tions with  several  publications,  is  induced  to  do  the  job  for 
a  fee  paid  by  the  manufacturer,  and  then  see  that  the  "edu- 
cation" or  promotion  is  duly  published.  But  such  arrange- 
ments are  precarious  unless  the  newspaper  or  magazine  gets 
some  quid  pro  quo.  Hence  an  educational  publicity  campaign 
of  this  kind  is  usually  correlated  with  a  minimum  expendi- 
ture for  paid  advertising. 

There  is  nothing  unusual  about  such  procedures,  nor  is  any 
violation  of  the  current  business  code  involved.  True,  the 
technique  requires  the  application  of  interested  economic 
pressures.  But  so  does  the  technique  of  security  promotion 
represented  by  the  Morgan  preferred  list.  In  so  far  as  moral 
or  ethical  judgments  are  applicable  to  such  procedures  it 
would  seem  futile  to  apply  them  to  the  individuals  involved; 
rather,  they  should  be  directed,  not  merely  against  the  exist- 
ing business  code,  but  against  the  system  under  which  such 
codes  naturally  develop. 

Another  example.  General  Motors  sells  automobiles  and 
advertises  them  in  the  Saturday  Evening  Post,  which  is  one 
of  the  reasons  why  the  Post  can  pay  high  prices  for  articles 
and  fiction  and  yet  sell  for  a  nickel.  But  the  fact  that  Gen- 
eral Motors  and  other  automobile  manufacturers  advertise 
in  the  Saturday  Evening  Post  also  serves  to  explain  certain 
elements  in  the  editorial  content  of  the  magazine.  The  Post 
by  reason  of  its  advertising  lineage  becomes  an  important 
and  profitable  business  property,  one  of  a  group  of  business 
properties.  Hence  the  editorial  policy  of  the  Post  is  inevitably 
conservative  in  its  policies.  With  equal  inevitability  its  edi- 
torial management  is  favorably  disposed  toward  the  specific 
interests  of  its  advertisers.  The  Post  may  or  may  not  consider 
itself  primarily  an  advertising  medium;  it  is  so  regarded  by 

the  advertiser  and  his  agent.  The  advertising  manager  of  the 
Post  must  be  prepared  to  show  that  the  Post  is  a  profitable 
medium,  a  favorable  medium;  that  the  editorial  content  of 
the  magazine  is  favorable  to,  and  supplements,  the  message 
of  the  advertiser. 

Saturday  Evening  Post  readers  will  perhaps  recall  that 
automobile  fiction  stories  appear  recurrently  in  that  maga- 
zine; that  these  and  other  stories  are  often  illustrated  with 
happy  and  prosperous  people  in  automobiles.  Naturally  the 
artist  is  not  permitted  to  make  recognizable  a  particular 
make  of  automobile. 

The  implication  must,  of  course,  be  qualified  before  it  can 
stand.  It  would  be  expected  in  an  automobile  age  that  auto- 
mobiles should  figure  in  much  contemporary  fiction.  It  would 
be  impossible  for  the  Post,  which  solicits  and  publishes  ad- 
vertising of  all  kinds  of  products,  to  emphasize  unduly  in  its 
editorial  columns  the  use  of  any  particular  product. 

But  it  would  also  be  bad  business  not  to  utilize  the  editorial 
content  of  the  magazine  to  increase  its  value  to  advertisers, 
and  that  is  exactly  what  is  done  as  a  matter  of  course,  not 
merely  by  the  Post,  but  by  many  other  newspapers  and  mag- 
azines of  large  circulation,  such  as  Good  Housekeeping, 
House  and  Garden,  Arts  and  Decoration.  It  is  inevitable, 
since  the  publication  is  a  business  enterprise,  that  the  business 
accounting  should  extend  to  the  editorial  as  well  as  the  ad- 
vertising management;  the  deciding  vote  in  any  issue  is  nat- 
urally that  of  the  advertising  management. 

American  children,  even  a  heavy  percentage  of  the  chil- 
dren of  working  class  parents,  brush  their  teeth.  They  have 
been  taught  to  do  so.  By  whom? 

By  the  manufacturers  and  advertisers  of  toothbrushes  and 
toothpastes,  operating  directly  through  signed  advertise- 
ments in  newspapers  and  magazines,  indirectly  through  the 
co-operation  of  the  dental  profession,  indirectly  through  the 
more  or  less  syndicated  "health  talks"  published  in  news- 


papers  and  magazines,  indirectly  through  the  teaching  of 
hygiene  in  the  schools.  The  co-operation  of  the  dental  pro- 
fession is  secured  by  the  distribution  of  free  samples  to  den- 
tists, the  solicitation  of  salesmen,  etc:  but  also  and  more 
importantly  it  is  sought  by  "constructive  educational"  adver- 
tising in  which  the  advertiser  urges  the  reader  to  "visit  your 
dentist  every  six  months":  such  campaigns — that  of  the  S.  S. 
White  Company,  manufacturer  of  dental  chairs,  mechanical 
equipment,  supplies,  etc.,  is  an  excellent  example — are  in 
turn  "merchandized"  to  the  dental  profession  in  the  pro- 
fessional publications.  "Merchandizing"  consists  essentially  of 
advertisement  of  advertisements.  The  manufacturer  points 
out  to  the  dentist  how  much  he  is  doing  to  "educate"  the 
public  to  patronize  the  dentist,  the  implication  being  that 
in  consideration  for  the  manufacturer's  expenditure  in  such 
"constructive"  publicity,  the  dentist  might  well  recommend 
the  particular  product  to  his  patients.  In  the  case  cited  the 
product  was  a  good  one,  made  according  to  a  formula  pre- 
pared by  an  eminent  dentist,  and  the  advertising  copy  more 
or  less  aggressively  de-bunked  the  unscientific  "talking- 
points"  of  competing  dentifrices.  A  number  of  manufac- 
turers, notably  Colgate,  have  followed  this  policy;  others, 
such  as  Forhan's,  Pepsodent,  Ipana,  etc.,  have  found  it  more 
profitable  to  select  a  particular  half -true  talking  point,  ex- 
aggerate it,  use  the  simple  technique  of  fear  appeal,  and  while 
continuing  to  seek  the  co-operation  of  the  dental  profession, 
discount  the  opposition  of  the  more  sensitive  and  "ethical" 
section  of  the  profession. 

Education  of  another  sort,  secured  through  fostering 
the  newspaper  and  magazine  propaganda  of  "health  talks," 
"preventive  dentistry,"  etc.,  can  rarely  be  made  to  benefit  the 
interest  of  any  particular  manufacturer.  In  general  such 
education  is  likely  to  be  sound  enough  in  intent,  and  at  least 
harmless  in  effect,  although  sometimes  objected  to  by  den- 
tists on  the  ground  that  it  is  insufficiently  critical  and  in- 


formative,  and  does  not — could  not,  since  the  publication  is 
an  advertising  medium — take  issue  with  the  bunk  which  is 
spread  on  the  advertising  pages.  If  the  press  were  or  could  be 
a  disinterested  educational  instrumentality  it  might  be  ex- 
pected to  correct  the  mis-education  sponsored  by  its  adver- 
tisers, but  then,  if  the  press  functioned  in  the  interests  of  its 
readers  rather  than  in  the  interests  of  its  advertisers,  it  would 
not  publish  pseudo-scientific,  more  or  less  deceptive  adver- 
tising. Again,  the  press  is  merely  an  advertising  "medium"; 
not  until  the  ghosts  which  use  this  medium  to  materialize 
their  more  or  less  sprightly  profit-motivated  antics — not 
until  these  ghosts  are  exorcized  can  we  expect  the  press  to  be 
anything  except  precisely  what  it  is.  Ethical  judgments  are 
pretty  much  irrelevant.  A  "good"  medium  is  not  a  medium 
which  materializes  only  good  ghosts;  a  "good"  medium  is  a 
medium  through  which  ghosts,  good,  bad  and  indifferent 
can  manifest  themselves  effectively.  True,  the  more  respect- 
able mediums  are  prejudiced  against  the  more  disreputable 
ghosts  and  exclude  them  from  their  pages.  But  such  preju- 
dices and  exclusions  are  also  likely  to  be  economically  rather 
than  ethically  determined;  the  antics  of  the  respectable 
ghosts  require,  for  their  maximum  effectiveness  a  decent 
parlor  half-light,  not  th  ebawdy  murk  in  which  the  direct- 
by-mail  peddlers  of  aphrodisiacs,  abortifacients,  and  con- 
traceptives squeal  and  gibber.  And  the  bigger  and  better 
ghosts  spend  more,  and  more  reliably. 

Another  form  of  indirect  education — that  which  makes 
use  of  our  public  schools — has  both  its  positive  and  negative 
aspects.  A  familiar  example  of  the  positive  use  of  this  "me- 
dium" of  formal  education  is  the  "toothbrush  drill"  taught 
children  in  the  primary  grades.  Manufacturers  of  tooth- 
brushes and  of  dentifrices  have  used  and  benefited  by  this 
technique  almost  equally.  They  have  enabled  school  boards 
to  economize  by  supplying  free  or  at  cost  the  literature  used 
in  teaching  dental  hygiene,  including  various  trick  devices 


for  making  education  amusing  to  the  young.  Such  education 
is  neither  very  good  nor  very  bad  in  and  of  itself.  But  if  a 
competent  teacher  or  school  nurse  happens  to  believe,  as  do 
many  dentists,  that  the  toothbrush  is  a  dubious  blessing;  that 
it  should  be  used  in  strict  moderation  if  at  all;  that  the  use, 
say,  of  dental  floss,  is  considerably  more  valuable  hygienically 
— such  a  school  functionary  is  likely  to  encounter  the  pres- 
sures by  which  heretics  are  disciplined — unless  she  can  get 
the  dental  floss  manufacturers  to  spring  to  her  aid.  And 
finally,  advertised  toothbrushes  and  dentifrices  are  likely  to 
be  absurdly  overpriced;  education  which  results  in  teaching 
children  to  buy  overpriced  toothbrushes  and  dentifrices  when 
the  use  of  ordinary  table  salt,  with  the  occasional  use  of 
dental  floss,  would  constitute  on  the  whole  a  more  hygienic  as 
well  as  more  economical  regimen — such  education  has  a  cer- 
tain unmistakable  ghostly  quality. 

But  the  negative  aspect  of  the  advertising  controls  oper- 
ating on  our  publicly  owned  schools  is  vastly  more  important. 
In  recent  years  a  new  specialty  has  appeared  in  the  teach- 
ing of  economics;  it  is  called  "consumption  economics"  and 
concerns  itself  with  the  consumer  as  a  factor  in  the  economic 
scheme;  how  can  the  consumer  best  serve  his  own  interest? 
What  is  an  intelligently  balanced  budget  for  a  given  income 
level?  What  items  should  be  bought  and  how  can  such  items 
be  bought  most  economically?  What  are  the  possibilities  and 
limits  of  such  developments — still  embryonic  in  America — 
as  consumers'  co-operatives,  credit  unions,  consumers'  re- 
search, etc. 

On  the  surface  there  would  seem  to  be  merit  in  this  idea 
of  "consumption  economics."  But  ask  the  secretary  of  your 
local  chamber  of  commerce,  or  the  business  manager  of  the 
local  paper,  or  any  prominent  retailer  what  they  think  about 
it.  Or  ask  some  of  the  consumption  economists,  such  as 
Robert  Lynd,  author  of  Middletoum,  just  how  far  they  have 
got  in  their  attempts  to  introduce  such  courses  in  the  schools. 

The  writer  asked  such  questions;  the  answers  were  somewhat 
disheartening.  In  conclusion  he  asked  an  even  more  naive 
question:  to  whom  do  these  public  schools  belong  anyway? 
The  answer,  of  course,  is  that  they  belong  to  the  people, 
since  all  the  people,  directly  or  indirectly,  pay  taxes  for  their 
support.  But  their  use  in  the  interest  of  all  the  people  is  sim- 
ply impossible,  because  the  interests  of  the  people  are  divided 
and  conflicting.  In  the  case  of  "consumption  economics,"  any 
attempt  to  perform  for  the  masses  of  the  population  even 
the  modest  service  which  Consumers'  Research  performs  for 
its  50,000  subscribers — an  expert  measurement  of  the  quali- 
ties and  values  of  products  and  services  offered  for  sale — is 
and  will  be  met  by  the  united  opposition  of  business  and  the 
allies  of  business:  manufacturers,  distributors,  bankers,  pub- 
lishers— all  the  people  who  profit  quite  legitimately  by  sell- 
ing products  and  services  in  as  great  a  volume  as  possible  and 
for  as  much  more  than  they  are  worth  as  the  traffic  will  bear: 
all  these  people  and  all  the  people  whose  political  voices  they 
control:  their  employees,  wives,  sisters,  uncles,  aunts  and 
cousins — even  perhaps  some  of  the  cousins  who  would  like 
to  consider  themselves  disinterested  school  superintendents 
and  teachers  serving  the  interests  of  all  the  people.  The  op- 
position is  unqualified  and  rigorous.  Business  men  are  also  in 
a  sense  educators.  They  use  advertising  and  its  related  de- 
vices and  techniques  to  "educate  the  consumer,"  to  "break 
down  sales  resistance";  your  earnest  "consumption  econo- 
mist" would  like  to  use  education  to  build  up  sales  resistance. 
But  let  him  try  to  do  it.  Anybody  who  would  want  to  cut 
the  Gordian  knot  of  this  "educational"  dilemma  with  the 
liberal  sword  of  "ethics"  is  welcome  to  his  pains. 

In  these  few  examples  we  have  encountered  advertising, 
propaganda  and  education  as  parts  of  a  single  economic  nexus. 
It  becomes  necessary  at  this  point  to  define  these  categories 
more  sharply  and  to  show  their  interrelations. 

The  complex  of  phenomena  is  economic,  institutional, 


technical,  psychological,  whereas  the  tendency  of  current 
criticism  by  liberal  publicists  has  emphasized  invidious  eth- 
ical judgments.  Yet  it  is  only  by  re-defining  such  value 
judgments  that  the  play  of  forces  can  be  accurately  described 
and  analyzed.  It  is  even  more  important  to  avoid  the  artificial 
isolation  of  phenomena  which  superficial  moral  and  ethical 
criticism  engenders.  What  we  are  dealing  with  is  the  institu- 
tional and  ideological  superstructure  of  competitive  capital- 
ism. Whether  we  take  our  cue  from  Marx  or  merely  from 
the  respectable  social  ecologists,  we  may  be  sure  that  the 
mutual  interaction  of  social  phenomena,  whether  categoried  as 
economic,  sociological  or  psychological,  is  an  immitigable  fact; 
that  when  we  seem  to  find  isolate,  perverse  and  irreconcilable 
elements  in  the  picture,  we  are  merely  victims  of  our  own 
thought  patterns,  for  there  can  be  nothing  mysterious  or 
isolate  about  the  phenomena.  The  contemporary  French  his- 
torian, Andre  Siegfried,  is  obviously  aware  of  the  continuity 
and  mutual  interaction  of  the  social  and  economic  phenomena 
we  have  been  describing  when  he  writes,  in  America's  Com- 
ing of  Age:  "Under  the  direction  of  remarkably  intelligent 
men,  publicity  has  become  an  important  factor  in  the  United 
States  and  perhaps  even  the  keynote  of  the  whole  economic 

Note  that  M.  Siegfried  is  using  "publicity"  as  an  inclu- 
sive term  to  denote  all  forms  of  advertising,  propaganda  and 
press  agentry.  The  writer  would  both  widen  and  sharpen  this 
inclusion  by  showing  that  the  apparatus  of  newspaper  and 
periodical  publishing,  radio  broadcasting,  motion  picture  pro- 
duction and  distribution;  with  the  conjoined  apparatus  of 
advertising  agencies,  public  relations  experts,  and  dealers  in 
direct-by-mail,  car  card,  and  poster  advertising,  constitute 
in  effect  a  single  institution;  further,  that  the  institutions 
and  techniques  of  formal  education,  both  secondary  and 
collegiate,  are  also  closely  related  and  functional  within  the 
general  scheme;  that  the  purpose  and  effect  of  these  con- 


joined  institutions  and  techniques  is  rule;  the  shaping  and 
control  of  the  economic,  social  and  psychological  patterns  of 
the  population  in  the  interests  of  a  profit-motivated  dom- 
inant class,  the  business  class. 

The  necessity  of  such  broad  inclusions  in  any  systematic 
analysis  of  the  phenomena  becomes  apparent  when  we  come 
to  define  our  major  categories.  The  definition  of  advertising 
offered  by  Frank  Presbrey  in  his  History  and  Development 
of  Advertising  is  as  follows:  "Advertising  is  printed,  written, 
or  graphic  salesmanship,  deriving  from  oral  salesmanship." 
This,  of  course,  should  be  corrected  to  include  radio  and  mo- 
tion picture  advertising,  but  otherwise  may  be  allowed  to 
stand.  The  point  to  be  emphasized  is  that  the  practical  ad- 
vertising man  views  all  these  instruments  of  communication 
— newspapers,  magazines,  radio,  motion  picture — as  advertis- 
ing media;  that  this  is  in  fact  the  accurate,  realistic  and  sig- 
nificant view  to  take  of  these  instruments  of  social  communi- 
cation, whereas  the  thought  patterns  of  liberal  laymen  tend 
to  make  them  appear  to  represent  some  sort  of  ideal  func- 
tional relationship  between  editor  and  reader,  or  broadcaster 
and  Great  Radio  Public — a  relationship  which  these  curious 
parasitic  growths,  advertising  and  publicity,  are  insidiously, 
immorally  perverting.  The  layman  sees  that  the  tail  is  wag- 
ging the  dog.  The  advertising  man  knows  that  the  tail  is 
the  dog  and  acts  accordingly.  He  knows  that  there  is  no  real 
separation  between  the  business  and  editorial  offices  of  a  mod- 
ern publication;  that  where  such  a  separation  appears  to 
obtain  it  is  purely  a  management  device,  designed  to  insure 
the  more  effective  functioning  of  the  publication  as  an  ad- 
vertising medium.  He  knows,  for  he  is  called  in  as  a  "pub- 
lisher's consultant"  to  plan  and  execute  the  job — that  the 
conception  of  a  modern  commercial  publication  starts  with 
the  definition  and  segregation  of  a  particular  buying  public, 
which  may  be  recruited  and  held  together  by  a  particular 
type  of  editorial  policy  and  content.  The  publisher's  consult  - 


ant  sees  an  unoccupied,  or  insecurely  occupied  niche  in  the 
crowded  spectrum  of  daily  and  periodical  publishing.  The 
publication  is  thereupon  concocted  to  the  specifications  nec- 
essary to  entertain  or  inform  that  particular  section  of  the 
buying  public.  The  objective  is  not  attained,  however,  until 
the  circulation  so  recruited  is  sold  to  advertisers  at  so  much 
per  head,  the  charge  being  based  on  the  average  buying 
power  and  the  demonstrated  "reader-interest"  of  the  readers. 
"Reader-interest"  is  measured  by  response  to  advertising  and 
the  editorial  content  of  the  magazine  is  carefully  designed, 
as  already  indicated,  to  strengthen  this  response.  You  pay 
your  money  and  you  take  your  choice,  depending  upon  the 
nature  of  your  product  or  service  and  the  methods  by  which 
it  is  promoted.  The  readers  of  True  Romances,  for  example, 
are  poor  but  numerous  and  credulous,  whereas  the  readers  of 
The  Sportsman  are  comparatively  few,  but  very  rich — and 
susceptible  to  the  arts  of  flattery  and  sycophancy.  In  both 
cases  the  collaboration  of  the  editorial  and  business  manage- 
ments is  intimate  and  accepted  as  a  matter  of  course.  Criti- 
cism of  such  arrangements  by  the  more  or  less  obsolete  criteria 
of  an  ideal  reader-editor  relationship  is  beside  the  point,  since 
the  determinants  are  the  objective  forces  of  the  competitive 
capitalist  economy. 

In  propaganda  we  encounter  a  phenomenon  even  more  dis- 
turbing and  puzzling  to  liberal  publicists  and  sociologists, 
especially  since  the  experience  of  the  war  demonstrated  the 
dominance  of  this  technique  of  social  control  in  modern  so- 
cieties. Again,  contemporary  students  have  been  frustrated 
by  their  tendency  to  view  the  phenomenon  as  isolate  and 

The  latest  book  on  propaganda,  which  digests  and  sum- 
marizes much  that  has  been  written  on  the  subject  by  con- 
temporary sociologists  and  publicists,  is  The  Propaganda 
Menace  by  Professor  Frederic  E.  Lumley,  of  Ohio  State  Uni- 
versity. Professor  Lumley  experiences  much  difficulty  in 


reaching  a  satisfactory  definition  of  propaganda.  After  re- 
jecting innumerable  definitions  offered  by  contemporary 
educators  and  sociologists,  he  offers  us  the  following: 

Propaganda  is  promotion  which  is  veiled  in  one  way  or  another 
as  to  (i)  its  origin  or  sources,  (2)  the  interests  involved,  (3)  the 
methods  employed,  (4)  the  content  spread  and  (5)  the  results 
accruing  to  the  victims — any  one,  any  two,  any  three,  any  four, 
any  five. 

In  Professor  Lumley's  view  the  contrasting  opposite  to 
propaganda,  necessary  in  defining  any  term,  is  "education." 
And  it  is  precisely  there  that  his  definition  falls  down,  be- 
cause of  the  highly  conditioned  and  shifting  quality  of  the 
latter  concept.  More  or  less  aware  of  these  confusions,  aware 
that  education  must  be  related  to  some  conception  of  social 
change,  Professor  Lumley  takes  refuge  in  the  relatively  so- 
phisticated and  acute  definition  of  education  offered  by  Pro- 
fessor Bode  as  follows: 

When  formal  education  becomes  necessary  in  order  to  fit  the 
individual  for  his  place  in  the  social  order,  there  arises  a  need  for 
reflection  on  the  aims  and  purposes  of  education  and  of  life.  Many 
aims  have  been  proposed,  but  if  we  view  intelligence  from  the 
standpoint  of  development,  the  conclusion  is  indicated  that  aims 
are  constantly  changing  and  that  education  is,  as  a  matter  of  fact, 
the  liberation  of  capacity;  or  in  Bagley's  phraseology,  it  means 
training  for  achievement.  To  make  this  liberation  of  capacity  or 
this  process  of  growth  a  controlling  ideal  means  the  cultivation,  of 
sensitiveness  to  the  human  quality  of  subject  matter  by  presenting 
it  in  its  social  context.  The  fact  that  a  given  type  of  education  is 
classed  as  liberal  or  cultural  is  no  guarantee  that  it  fosters  this 
quality  of  mind.  Unless  this  sensitiveness  is  deliberately  cultivated, 
many  human  interests,  such  as  business,  science  and  technical  voca- 
tions, do  not  become  decently  humanized.  And  to  cultivate  this 

sensitiveness  deliberately  means  that  it  is  made  the  guiding  ideal 
for  education. 

In  this  definition  Professor  Bode  recognizes  the  necessity  of 
relating  education  to  social  change.  He  does  not,  in  the  passage 
quoted,  take  account  of  the  dynamics  of  social  change.  One 
does  not  need  to  insist  upon  a  strict  Marxian  interpretation  to 
describe  the  essential  nature  of  social  change.  It  will  be  readily 
granted  by  most  readers  that  the  conflict  of  pressure  groups 
within  the  social  order  results  in  shifting  balances  of  power; 
that  these  pressure  groups  tend  to  represent  economic  classes; 
that  the  issues  of  conflict  tend  to  be  economic  at  bottom;  that 
the  basic  cause  of  change  is  the  changing  level  of  the  produc- 
tive forces — in  our  day  the  machine  technology.  This  is  not 
to  ignore  the  equally  real  role  played  by  pressure  groups  in 
the  fields  of  the  social  mores,  religion,  race,  etc.,  but  merely 
to  emphasize  the  economic  and  class  roots  of  this  perpetual 
conflict,  where  propaganda  is  so  powerfully  instrumental. 

If  this  is  so,  then  there  are  certain  crucial  undefined  terms 
imbedded  in  Professor  Bode's  definition.  What,  for  example,  is 
meant  by  "fitting  the  individual  for  his  place  in  the  social 
order"?  Obviously  the  students  whom  Professor  Bode  pro- 
poses to  educate  after  this  fashion  occupy  not  the  same  but 
different  places  in  our  social  order,  which,  while  retaining  a 
certain  residual  fluidity  manifests  an  increasing  rigidity  and 
class  stratification.  To  fit  a  third  generation  Rockefeller  for 
his  place  in  the  social  order  is  obviously  a  task  different  from 
that  of  fitting  Isidore  Bransky,  son  of  a  radical  East  Side  pants 
maker,  for  his  place,  which  is  a  matter  of  strictly  limited  but 
crucial  choice,  depending  upon  whether  young  Bransky  leaves 
his  class  or  doesn't;  whether  he  is  fitted  to  become  a  labor 
organizer,  legal  defense  worker,  radical  journalist  or  merely 
an  energetic  legal  ambulance  chaser,  political  fixer  or  other 
capitalist  functionary  in  business  or  in  the  professions.  Should 
or  can  the  educator  remain  above  the  battle  as  respects  this 


choice?  Will  not  the  educational  means  by  which  capacity  is 
liberated  necessarily  affect  it?  Finally,  would  Professor  Bode 
attempt  to  deny  that  education  in  a  typical  university  does 
inevitably  indoctrinate  and  that  on  the  whole  it  indoctrinates 
in  the  direction  of  conformity  to  the  existing  order?  In 
honesty,  must  not  the  teacher  tell  his  student  that  ordinarily 
he  must  save  his  body  by  serving  an  exploitative  system  and, 
if  possible  save  his  soul  by  helping  to  destroy  this  system? 

What  is  meant  by  presenting  subject  matter  "in  its  social 
context"?  Whose  social  context?  Does  Professor  Bode  mean 
by  social  context  the  contemporary  class  conflicts  of  American 
capitalism  exacerbated  by  the  internal  and  international  con- 
flicts of  our  "surplus  economy"?  Does  he  mean  the  perhaps 
imminent  "freezing"  of  the  capitalist  structure  into  the  cor- 
porative forms  of  Fascism? 

Returning  to  Professor  Lumley,  it  might  well  be  alleged 
that  in  urging  "education"  as  a  preventive  and  cure  of  the 
propaganda  menace,  Professor  Lumley  is  really  writing  prop- 
aganda for  a  particular  concept  of  education:  the  concept  of 
an  objective,  disinterested  effort  to  release  capacity.  Further, 
it  might  be  argued  that  this  concept  is  doomed  to  remain  in 
the  field  of  theory,  since  it  is  observably  nonexistent  in 
practice.  Finally,  it  may  be  suggested  that  to  erect  a  purely 
conceptual  theory  of  education,  while  ignoring  the  contem- 
porary practices  and  very  real  economic  determinants  of 
educators  and  the  institutions  they  work  for,  is  itself  a  kind  of 
propaganda:  propaganda  by  suppression  which  is  one  of  Pro- 
fessor Lumley's  recognized  categories. 

The  necessity  of  such  realistic  clarifications  cannot  be 
evaded,  and  to  Professor  Bode's  credit  it  must  be  said  that  he, 
at  least  in  his  later,  more  advanced  position  does  not  try  to 
evade  them.  With  Dewey,  Counts  and  other  modern  educators 
he  acknowledges  frankly  that  the  theory  of  education  pro- 
pounded in  the  passage  quoted  above  is  applicable  only  in  a 
classless  society. 

Behold,  then,  this  precious  absolute,  education,  the  hope  of 
democracy!  The  more  we  turn  it  up  to  the  light,  whether  we 
examine  its  practice  or  even  its  theory  as  expressed  by  leading 
educators,  the  more  it  dissolves  in  relativity.  And  our  crucial 
problem  remains  with  us:  what  is  education  and  what  is  prop- 
aganda with  respect  to  the  problems  of  the  individual  in 
our  society,  faced  as  it  is,  with  the  self -preservative  necessity 
of  fundamental  social  change? 

If  it  were  only  possible  to  posit  an  ideal  disinterested  ob- 
jectivity on  the  part  of  the  educator,  and  an  absence  of 
pressure  controls  operating  upon  our  educational  institutions, 
the  problem  would  be  greatly  simplified.  But,  as  we  have 
seen,  leading  educators  properly  discard  such  claims.  The 
facts  of  class  interest  and  individual  subjectivity  must  be  and 
now  are,  generally  admitted.  The  coercions  of  the  social  order, 
for  achievement  in  which  the  student  is  trained,  these,  too, 
are  frankly  acknowledged.  Recently  Dr.  Abraham  Flexner 
has  noted  with  proper  but  perhaps  futile  indignation  the  ten- 
dency to  vocationalize  our  institutions  of  higher  learning, 
that  is,  to  make  them  functional  with  respect  to  the  require- 
ments of  business,  and  to  the  survival  necessities  of  students. 
And  we  have  with  us  always  the  issue  of  "academic  freedom": 
the  degree  to  which  a  teacher  is  permitted  to  express  views 
in  conflict  with  the  economic  and  social  status  quo.  The  under- 
lying fact,  of  course,  is  that  in  both  privately  and  publicly 
supported  educational  institutions  the  interest  and  prejudices 
of  the  ruling  class  are  ultimately  determining,  whenever  edu- 
cation enters  the  field  of  contemporary  social  and  political 

Many  teachers,  even  of  the  social  sciences,  are  quite  uncon- 
scious of  these  determinants  and  preserve  the  confident  illu- 
sion of  "scientific  objectivity"  in  the  very  act  of  asserting 
creedal  absolutes  which  are  obviously  a  product  of  social  and 
economic  class  conditioning.  Professor  Lumley  is  himself  a 
conspicuous  example  of  this.  In  his  concluding  chapter  he 


writes:  "No  sane  person  wants  revolutionary  communistic 
propaganda  spread  in  this  country."  Is  this  the  language  of  an 
objective,  disinterested  educator?  Professor  Lumley  urges  that 
instead  of  deporting  and  lynching  Reds,  their  agitation  be 
combatted  (i)  by  destroying  the  soil  of  gullibility  through 
education  and  (2)  by  removing  desperate  need  through 
liberal  reformism.  Such  recommendations  may  seem  relatively 
enlightened  and  civilized,  but  they  are  not  quite  sufficient  to 
rehabilitate  Professor  Lumley  in  his  role  of  disinterested  edu- 

The  dubiousness  of  his  position  would  quickly  appear  under 
circumstances  such  as  the  following:  suppose  that  because 
of  the  disinterested  teaching  of  Dr.  Lumley  one  of  his  students 
had  escaped  the  class-conditioned  thought  patterns  of  his 
family  and  friends,  or  that,  because  of  the  logical  capacities 
released  by  education  he  had  broken  through  these  patterns. 
Suppose  that  this  student,  having  acquired  some  acquaintance 
with  Marx,  Engels,  Veblen,  Lenin  and  others,  should  elect  as 
the  subject  of  his  doctor's  thesis  The  Position  of  the  Social 
Scientist  under  American  Capitalism.  The  application  of  the 
Marxian  analysis  to  this  material  might  well  result  in  "revolu- 
tionary communistic  propaganda."  Would  Professor  Lumley 
pronounce  his  student  insane  and  withdraw  his  fellowship? 
If  not,  should  he  not  have  to  consider  himself  insane  for  per- 
mitting the  spread  of  "revolutionary  communistic  prop- 

One  thinks  of  a  third  solution  for  this  imaginary  academic 
dilemma:  shove  the  student  back  into  the  educational  mill 
and  trust  that  on  his  re-emergence  he  would  have  more 
sense.  Then  suggest  to  him,  as  an  interesting  subject  for  a 
thesis,  Paranoiac  Traits  in  Modern  Radical  Leaders. 

It  is  indeed  difficult  to  escape  the  conviction  that  the  god 
of  education,  like  other  gods,  is  not  merely  man-made,  but 
made  by  a  particular  group  of  men  as  a  rationalization  of  their 
role  in  the  complex  struggle  of  social  forces — of  "pressure 

1 60 

groups":  further,  that  the  institutions  built  up  to  exemplify 
and  discharge  this  role — our  schools  and  universities — are 
similarly  subject  to  such  rationalized  determinants.  The 
claim  of  disinterestedness,  of  universality,  is  also  made  for 
the  press,  although  Professor  Lumley  has  no  difficulty  in  see- 
ing that  the  latter  institution  becomes  inevitably  an  instru- 
ment of  pressure  groups.  The  same  claim  is  even  made  for 
business,  the  instrument  of  profit-motivated  property  own- 
ers. All  of  these  claims  are  of  course  equally  invalid;  none  of 
these  institutions  is  separate  or  self-sufficient;  all  are  swept 
into  the  struggle  of  conflicting  social  forces;  advertising, 
propaganda  and  education  are  inextricably  merged  and  inter- 

The  contemporary  fact  of  this  confusion  is  excellently  il- 
lustrated by  the  propaganda  activities  of  the  National  Elec- 
tric Light  Association,  to  which  Professor  Lumley  devotes  an 
indignant  chapter.  The  investigation  of  the  Federal  Trade 
Commission  and  the  writings  of  H.  S.  Raushenbush,  Ernest 
Gruening  and  others  have  familiarized  most  readers  with  the 
theory  and  practice  of  this  propaganda  campaign  in  behalf 
of  our  privately  owned  light  and  power  corporations.  It  will 
be  sufficient  here  to  point  out  that  the  instruments  of  adver- 
tising, propaganda  and  education  were  all  used  in  such  a 
way  as  to  reinforce  each  other,  all  contributing  to  the  crude 
economic  objective  of  protecting  and  conserving  the  vested 
interests  of  private  property  in  exploiting  for  profit  an  es- 
sential public  service. 

Direct,  explicit,  signed  propaganda  by  the  National  Elec- 
tric Light  Association  and  its  member  companies  was  used  in 
the  form  of  paid  advertising.  This  provided  an  economic 
leverage  for  the  control  of  the  news  and  editorial  content  of 
the  press  as  effecting  the  interests  of  the  light  and  power 
companies.  Note  that  the  press  was  in  a  bargaining  position. 
Newspaper  publishers  could  and  did  on  occasion  threaten  to 
expose  the  iniquities  of  the  "power  trust"  unless  the  local 


companies  could  be  brought  to  see  the  propriety  of  buying 
advertising  space  in  their  papers.  Once  this  concession  was 
made,  the  papers  willingly  "co-operated"  with  the  NELA 
campaign,  by  printing  the  propaganda  furnished  by  the  pub- 
licity directors  in  the  form  of  mats,  boiler  plate  and  mime- 
ographed releases.  One  interesting  and  important  point  is 
totally  missed  by  Professor  Lumley.  In  the  case  of  the  NELA 
campaign,  as  of  other  propagandas  by  vested  commercial  in- 
terests, what  was  in  effect  a  method  of  control  by  bribery 
(blackmail  from  the  point  of  view  of  the  NELA)  was  prac- 
ticable only  with  respect  to  the  smaller  and  less  powerful 
newspapers,  just  as  it  was  only  the  less  eminent  professors 
who  accepted  fees  for  making  speeches  and  writing  texts  fa- 
vorable to  the  power  interests.  Integrity,  as  Stuart  Chase  has 
pointed  out,  is  a  luxury  in  our  civilization.  It  is,  with  certain 
qualifications,  one  of  the  privileges  of  wealth  and  power.  No 
evidence  was  produced  to  show  that  the  NELA  had  bribed 
the  New  York  Times.  Attempts  were  made  to  influence  the 
Associated  Press,  but  that  is  a  mutual  corporation,  in  which 
the  pressure  upon  individual  members  backs  up  inevitably 
upon  the  directing  officials. 

On  the  other  hand,  it  is  equally  important  to  note  that  it 
wasn't  necessary  to  bribe  the  New  York  Times,  and  that, 
stupid  as  the  NELA  publicity  directors  proved  themselves  to 
be,  they  probably  had  more  sense  than  to  try  to  bribe  either 
the  Times  or  other  major  publishing  corporations.  Yet  the 
editorials  in  the  Times,  and  its  handling  of  public  utility  news, 
especially  with  respect  to  the  private  versus  public  ownership 
issue,  have  been  pretty  consistently  favorable  to  the  power 
interests.  Why?  Obviously,  because  the  Times  is  itself  a  major 
capitalist  property.  It  is  part  of  the  complex  of  financial, 
business  and  social  relationships  which  produces  what  is  called 
a  "conservative"  point  of  view.  The  owners  and  managers  who 
express  and  make  effective  this  point  of  view  are  often  not 
aware  of  the  economic  and  social  pressures  which  influence 


them.  They  act  unconsciously,  much  as  an  experienced  driver 
operates  an  automobile — he  is  "part  of  the  car."  The  specific 
allegiance  rarely  becomes  overt  and  fully  conscious. 

Respectable  and  powerful  newspapers  and  magazines  can- 
not be  expected  to  swallow  and  approve  the  rawer  aspects  of 
contemporary  commercial  propaganda.  The  Times  duly 
slapped  the  wrist  of  the  National  Electric  Light  Association, 
following  the  exposures  of  the  Federal  Trade  Commission.  It 
did  not  go  down  the  line  for  Mr.  Doheny  and  Secretary  Fall 
during  the  Teapot  Dome  scandal,  though  from  time  to  time  it 
deprecates  Congressional  investigations  as  in  general  "bad 
for  business." 

Some  service — not  only  lip  service  but  actual  service — is 
due  the  concept  of  a  "free  press"  and  a  modicum  of  such  serv- 
ice can  usually  be  obtained  even  by  radical  minority  groups. 
The  amount  and  quality  of  such  service  is  determined  by  the 
circumstances  of  the  individual  case.  The  major  determining 
factors  are:  the  inherent  news  value  of  the  incident  and  its 
relation  to  other  current  news;  the  success  with  which  cur- 
rent liberal  concepts  of  free  speech,  legal  rights,  etc.,  can  be 
appealed  to;  the  class  origin  and  political  orientation  of  the 
reporter  who  covers  the  story;  the  current  pressures  of  local, 
national  and  foreign  news;  the  reputation  of  the  radical  prop- 
agandist as  a  reliable  news  source;  the  mass  pressure  brought 
to  bear  upon  the  newspaper. 

The  writer  has  served  as  a  commercial  publicity  man,  an 
advertising  man  and  as  a  radical  propagandist.  All  these 
techniques  require  careful  measurement  and  utilization  of  the 
forces  operative  in  a  given  complex  of  public  relations. 
Neither  as  a  commercial  propagandist  nor  as  a  radical  prop- 
agandist is  it  intelligent  to  act  on  the  assumption  that  the 
capitalist  press  is  "kept,"  to  use  the  familiar  half -true  radical 
jibe.  It  must  always  be  remembered  that  the  press  has  to 
"keep"  itself;  that  it  has  its  own  particular  values,  traditions 
and  technical  requirements  to  conserve.  Although,  primarily 

because  of  the  dominance  of  advertising,  the  press  functions 
in  general  as  an  organ  of  business,  it  functions  with  relation 
to  circulations  which  usually  include  a  variety  of  more  or  less 
organized  and  articulate  pressure  groups.  Also,  journalism  is 
a  profession  with  an  ethical  tradition.  Both  the  somewhat 
eroded  and  romantic  professional  traditions  of  journalism  and 
our  somewhat  debilitated  concepts  of  democratic  freedom 
and  fair  play  can  still  be  used  to  temper  the  winds  of  "public 
opinion"  to  the  shorn  lambs  of  radical  protest  and  agitation 
— especially  when  mass  pressure  in  the  form  of  protests, 
strikes,  and  demonstrations  is  used  to  force  the  issue. 

Yet  it  must  be  confessed  that  these  are  all  frail  reeds  to  lean 
upon  in  a  pinch,  especially  if  the  pinch  is  local.  To  illustrate 
this  last  point,  it  is  sufficient  to  point  to  the  contrast  between 
the  handling  of  the  1931  disorders  in  the  Kentucky  coal 
fields  by  the  Kentucky  press,  as  against  the  performance  of  the 
distant  metropolitan  journals  and  press  associations.  The  local 
editors  editorialized  against  the  "Red  menace,"  and  in  their 
news  reporting  suppressed  and  distorted  the  unquestionable 
facts  of  starvation  of  strikers,  discrimination  in  the  admin- 
istration of  public  and  private  relief,  the  capture  of  the  ma- 
chinery of  justice  by  the  coal  corporations  and  the  violence 
of  middle-class  mobs.  True,  on  that  occasion  the  Associated 
Press  also  broke  down,  because  the  local  A.  P.  reporter  hap- 
pened to  be  also  one  of  the  leaders  of  the  middle-class  mob 
which  illegally  deported  one  of  the  successive  delegations  of 
writers  and  students  which  entered  the  strike  area  to  bring 
relief  to  the  strikers  and  to  report  the  facts  of  the  situation 
to  the  country  at  large.  But  the  protests  of  Dos  Passos  and 
others  were  effective  on  that  occasion:  the  offending  A.  P. 
correspondent  was  dismissed.  And  shortly  afterward  the  New 
York  Times  sent  a  special  correspondent,  Mr.  Louis  Stark,  to 
Harlan  County,  where  he  did  an  honest  and  competent  re- 
porting job  in  a  series  of  signed  articles. 

A    similar    situation    developed    in   connection    with    the 


Scottsboro  case,  in  which  seven  negro  boys  faced  legal  lynch- 
ing in  a  situation  growing  out  of  race  prejudice  and  conflict 
fostered  by  ruling-class  economic  interests.  The  evidence  on 
which  the  boys  were  convicted,  later  shown  to  have  been 
largely  perjured,  was  accepted  pretty  much  without  question 
by  almost  the  entire  Southern  press.  The  lynch  atmosphere 
surrounding  the  first  trial  was  largely  suppressed.  The  case 
was  consistently  "played  down"  throughout  the  South.  Citi- 
zens of  New  York  learned  more  about  the  Scottsboro  case 
through  the  papers  than  citizens  of  Alabama.  As  a  result  of 
the  efforts  of  the  International  Labor  Defense,  a  Communist- 
led  organization,  a  new  trial  was  ordered  by  the  United  States 
Supreme  Court.  The  boys  were  again  convicted  by  a  jury 
obviously  swayed  by  anti-negro,  anti-Jew  and  anti-radical 
appeals  to  prejudice.  But  the  New  'York  Times  reporter,  Mr. 
F.  W.  Daniell,  reported  the  trial  with  notable  accuracy  and 
fairness,  whereas  the  Southern  press  for  the  most  part  con- 
tinued the  policy  of  suppression  and  distortion,  dictated  by 
the  pressures  of  local  and  regional  ruling-class  prejudice  and 
interests.  In  this  case  the  factor  of  professional  pride  entered 
also  into  the  equation.  The  prosecution  made  the  mistake  of 
treating  Mr.  Daniell  and  other  correspondents  with  scant 
courtesy.  Promptly  and  without  trepidation,  Mr.  Daniell,  both 
in  his  personal  conduct  and  in  his  dispatches,  made  it  clear 
that  the  Alabama  authorities  were  in  no  position  to  bully 
and  coerce  the  correspondent  of  the  New  York  Times. 

The  press  handling  of  the  communist-led  Hunger  March  to 
Washington  in  the  fall  of  1932  provides  another  interesting 
example.  In  this  case  the  Hoover  Administration  broadcast  ap- 
peals to  State  and  local  authorities  to  "stop  the  Hunger 
March."  The  evidence  is  overwhelming  that  the  press,  actu- 
ated by  the  alarm  of  the  administration  and  of  business,  un- 
dertook more  or  less  concertedly  to  play  down  and  ridicule 
the  demonstration.  The  dispatches,  both  while  the  columns 
were  enroute  to  Washington  and  after  their  arrival,  were  so 


colored  and  so  flagrantly  editorialized  as  to  surprise  even  ex- 
perienced radical  organizers.  The  demonstrators  were  "neither 
hungry  nor  marching."  The  March  was  treated  as  a  Com- 
munist publicity  stunt  and  both  the  leaders  and  the  rank  and 
file  were  consistently  ridiculed.  Radio  and  news  reels  joined 
this  hostile  chorus.  But  in  the  end,  after  the  Washington 
police  had  executed  their  melodramatic  coup,  and  the  3,000 
marchers  were  practically  imprisoned  on  a  stretch  of  wind- 
swept highway  on  the  outskirts  of  the  capital,  the  unity  of  the 
conservative  press  front  began  to  crack. 

There  were  several  factors  in  this  partial  failure  of  the 
anti-communist  propaganda.  In  the  first  place,  the  Commu- 
nist organizers  of  the  Unemployed  Councils,  hugely  handi- 
capped as  they  were  by  lack  of  funds  and  by  the  terrified 
inertia  of  the  destitute  unemployed  workers,  had  by  sheer 
drive  and  energy  accomplished  a  notable  feat  in  bringing  the 
three  columns  of  marchers  to  a  point  of  convergence  on  the 
capital  within  a  few  hours  of  each  other.  In  the  second  place 
the  more  radical  working  class  groups  in  the  cities  through 
which  they  passed  had  cheered  the  marchers,  aided  them  with 
contributions  of  food  and  shelter,  and  otherwise  counter- 
acted the  efforts  of  the  authorities  to  disintegrate  and  abort 
the  enterprise.  In  the  third  place,  Herbert  Benjamin,  the  Com- 
munist Director  of  the  march,  proved  himself  to  be  a  cool, 
resourceful,  courageous  and  humanly  appealing  leader.  He 
contrasted  favorably  with  Major  (Duck -Legs)  Brown,  who 
directed  the  forces  of  the  District  of  Columbia  police.  The 
genuine  discipline  of  the  marchers  contrasted  favorably  with 
the  provocative  brutality  and  obvious  unfairness  of  the 
police.  Protests,  sponsored  by  more  or  less  well-known  liberals, 
and  invoking  the  rights  of  free  speech,  appeal  to  the  govern- 
ment, etc.,  were  duly  printed  in  the  conservative  papers. 
From  the  publicity  point  of  view,  the  most  effective  effort  on 
the  radical  side  was  the  delegation  of  socially  prominent  New 
York  women  which  came  to  Washington  and  protested  to 


Vice  President  Curtis  and  various  Congressmen  and  Senators. 
Known  radicals,  however  prominent,  are  comparatively  use- 
less for  such  purposes;  their  protests  are  not  "news"  and  the 
conservative  press  virtuously  plays  them  down  as  "publicity- 

In  the  case  of  the  Washington  Hunger  March  the  protests 
of  the  prominent  liberals  and  radicals  helped,  but  what  helped 
most  was  the  fact  that  Hoover,  his  official  family  and  the 
brass  hats  of  the  army  were  personally  unpopular  with  the 
Washington  correspondents  and  with  the  staff  members  of 
the  local  papers.  This  unpopularity  was  a  factor  in  the  forth- 
right protests  and  the  vigorous  news  writing  which  accom- 
panied and  followed  Hoover's  expulsion  of  the  Bonus  Army  a 
few  months  before.  The  Washington  News  printed  the  fla- 
grant facts  of  police  brutality  and  provocation  and  editori- 
ally protested  (The  News  is  the  local  Scripps-Howard  paper 
and  the  city  editor  happened  to  be  a  liberal,  as  well  as  per- 
sonally popular  with  the  newspaper  fraternity. )  At  this  point 
the  hitherto  almost  unanimous  hostility  of  the  capitalist  press 
began  to  falter.  The  disparity  of  forces,  as  between  the 
microscopic  army  of  determined,  but  unarmed  and  unviolent 
marchers,  and  the  armed  might  of  the  government  police 
and  military  made  the  administration's  effort  to  convert  the 
demonstration  into  a  Red  scare  seem  a  little  ridiculous.  The 
climax  came  when  Benjamin  executed  his  hair-raising  "dress- 
rehearsal,"  after  which  he  had  said:  "Tomorrow  we  march." 
The  next  day  came  the  official  order  permitting  the  marchers 
to  enter  Washington. 

What,  by  the  way,  was  this  performance?  In  its  essence  it 
was  propaganda,  or  if  you  like,  education,  in  one  of  its  high- 
est manifestations:  that  of  strategic,  dramatic  action.  It  had 
its  effect,  despite  the  effort  of  the  conservative  press  to  sup- 
press and  distort  its  significance  and  muffle  its  reverberations. 

With  respect  to  this  case  there  are  a  number  of  interesting 
points  to  be  noted.  First,  the  Washington  press,  especially  the 

News,  treated  the  marchers  more  fairly  on  the  whole  than 
the  New  York  papers.  In  some  instances  the  latter  headlined 
the  dispatches  of  their  correspondents  in  such  a  way  as  to 
distort,  always  in  derision  of  the  marchers,  the  true  bearing 
of  the  story. 

The  apparent  reversal  of  the  usual  in  such  situations  is  sim- 
ply explained.  In  this  case  the  pinch  was  not  so  much  local 
as  national.  The  ruling-class  and  middle-class  interests  and 
prejudices  served  by  the  capitalist  press  throughout  the  coun- 
try were  vigorously  hostile  to  the  Communists  and  especially 
hostile  to  that  particular  demonstration.  But  in  Washington 
thousands  of  people  had  witnessed  the  inept  and  brutal  per- 
formance of  the  police.  Although  middle-class  Washington 
public  opinion  was  in  general  hostile  or  indifferent  to  the 
marchers,  Washington  didn't  like  Hoover,  nor  did  it  like  the 
repetition,  by  a  defeated  and  discredited  administration,  of 
tactics  rawer  if  anything  than  those  employed  against  the 
Bonus  Army. 

The  Washington  papers  did  nothing  comparable  to  the  ex- 
ploit of  a  Daily  News  reporter  who  invented  out  of  whole 
cloth  and  published  a  speech  alleged  to  have  been  made  by 
Herbert  Benjamin,  violently  inciting  his  followers  to  a  blood- 
thirsty attack  upon  Washington.  Theoretically,  the  News 
couldn't  do  such  a  thing  because  it  is  a  mass  paper  sold  to 
"Sweeney,"  the  working  man — or  at  least  its  promotion 
literature  so  alleges.  It  was  the  Struggle  of  Sweeney  that  Ben- 
jamin was  supporting.  Actually,  something  of  the  sort  was 
to  be  expected.  The  News  uses  sensational  tabloid  methods  to 
exploit,  for  purely  commercial  purposes,  the  economic  illiter- 
acy and  the  economic  and  psychological  helplessness  of  its 
readers.  The  News  is  a  business  property,  a  commercial, 
profit-making  enterprise,  and  an  advertising  medium. 

With  the  foregoing  case  histories  in  mind,  let  us  return 
to  our  major  categories,  advertising,  propaganda  and  educa- 
tion, and  examine  once  more  the  liberal  views  of  Professor 


Lumley  and  others.  The  thing  to  look  for  in  any  system  of 
social  communication  is  the  point  of  control.  Obviously,  the 
key  phenomenon  is  advertising,  which  is  in  turn  merely  an 
instrument  of  competitive  business.  A  commercial  publica- 
tion is  an  advertising  medium,  that  is  to  say,  an  instrument 
by  which  advertisers,  with  the  complex  of  interests  and  prej- 
udices which  they  represent,  shape  and  control  the  economic, 
social  and  political  patterns  of  the  literate  population:  di- 
rectly through  the  signed  advertisements  themselves;  indi- 
rectly through  the  controlled  or  influenced  editorial  content 
of  the  publication;  indirectly  through  the  controlled  or  in- 
fluenced content  of  formal  education  in  the  schools  and  col- 

When  a  powerful  vested  interest,  such  as  the  electric  power 
industry,  wishes  by  means  of  propaganda  to  shape  public  opin- 
ion favorably  to  its  interests,  it  is  advertising  that  enables  it 
readily  to  employ  the  instruments  of  the  daily  and  periodical 
press,  radio,  motion  picture,  etc.,  for  this  purpose.  Advertising 
is,  of  course,  itself  propaganda,  but  more  important,  the  grant- 
ing or  withholding  of  an  advertising  contract  offers  a  means 
of  bribing  or  coercing  indirect  propaganda  in  the  editorial 
columns  of  the  publication.  Finally,  where  such  bribery  or 
coercion  is  impracticable,  as  in  the  case  of  powerful  publica- 
tions like  the  Times,  the  same  end  is  secured  by  reason  of 
the  fact  that  the  Times  is  an  advertising  medium.  As  such  it 
is  an  instrument  of  business,  and  its  editorial  policies  are 
conditioned  by  the  pressures  of  the  dominant  economic 

Professor  Lumley  exclaims  at  the  omnipresence  of  propa- 
ganda. Our  civilization,  he  says  is  "spooky"  with  the  ghosts  of 
propaganda  hiding  behind  every  bush.  The  professor  has  had 
nerves.  Propaganda  is  no  more  and  no  less  omnipresent  than 
the  vested  interests  of  competing  and  conflicting  economic 
and  social  pressure  groups.  The  balance  of  power  is  held  by 
business,  which,  through  advertising,  controls  the  instruments 


of  social  communication.  There  is  nothing  mysterious  about 
it,  nothing  moral,  nothing  ethical  and  nothing  disinterested. 
How  could  there  be?  Miracles  don't  happen  in  the  body  poli- 
tic any  more  than  they  do  in  the  physical  body  of  man. 

Advertising  is  propaganda,  advertising  is  education,  propa- 
ganda is  advertising,  education  is  propaganda,  educational  in- 
stitutions use  and  are  used  by  advertising  and  propaganda. 
Shuffle  the  terms  any  way  you  like,  any  one,  any  two,  any 
three,  to  paraphrase  Professor  Lumley.  What  emerges  is  the 
fact  that  it  is  impossible  to  dissociate  the  phenomena,  and 
that  all  three,  each  in  itself,  or  in  combination  are  instru- 
ments of  rule. 

Whether  the  use  of  these  instruments  is  veiled  or  overt  will 
doubtless  continue  to  be  a  matter  of  grave  ethical  concern  to 
liberals  like  Professor  Lumley.  But  the  majority  of  the  propa- 
ganda to  which  he  objects  is  overt. 

Every  journalist  knows  this.  The  editors  of  The  New  Yorker 
are  journalists,  highly  competent  and  sophisticated  in  that 
field,  and  they  take  great  pleasure  in  jibing  at  the  bizarre 
efforts  of  the  "public  relations"  experts.  On  occasion  they 
become  as  disgusted  as  any  man  about  town  can  permit  him- 
self to  become  without  risk  of  rumpling  his  hair.  The  fol- 
lowing comment  from  Talk  of  the  Town  in  its  issue  of 
Feb.  10,  1934,  is  an  example.  The  note  is  headed  Many  Happy 
Returns  and  I  quote  the  first  and  the  concluding  sentences : 

The  Quadruple-Screw  Turbo-Electric  Vessel  Queen  of  Bermuda, 
Capt.  H.  Jeffries  Davis,  was  the  scene  last  week  of  a  novel  birth- 
day party  for  President  Roosevelt  and  the  Warm  Springs  Founda- 
tion on  behalf  of  the  Bermuda  News  Bureau,  the  Furness  Bermuda 
Line,  the  Fashion  Originators  Guild,  and  Island  Voyager  Magazine, 
by  special  arrangement  with  James  Montgomery  Flagg,  Howard 
Chandler  Christy,  Carl  Mueller,  John  LaGatta,  McClelland  Barclay, 
forty  mannequins,  the  six  most  beautiful  girls  in  America  and 
Lastex.  Mrs.  James  Roosevelt,  mother  of  the  President,  received.  .  .  . 


Her  son,  Franklin,  in  whose  honor  the  party  was  given,  was 
fifty-two  years  old;  and  there  were  moments  .  .  .  when  we  won- 
dered whether  the  country  he  has  been  working  so  hard  to  save 
was  worth  the  effort. 

One  is  moved  to  ask  Professor  Lumley  if  there  is  anything 
insidious  or  lacking  in  frankness  about  this  extraordinary 
synthesis  of  personal,  political,  philanthropic  and  commercial 
propaganda?  Let  us  consider  for  a  moment,  realistically,  this 
question  of  the  veiled  or  overt  use  of  the  instruments  of 
social  communication  as  a  problem  in  tactics.  One  admits 
that  the  public  which  sees  the  end  result  only  is  frequently 
unaware  of  the  origins  of  propaganda.  But  ordinarily  the 
propagandist  himself  proceeds  quite  overtly  in  manipulating 
his  instruments. 

Advertising  is  overt  enough  as  to  its  origin  or  sources  be- 
cause it  is  signed  by  the  advertiser.  The  interest  involved  is 
overt;  the  advertiser  wants  to  sell  you  something  for  more 
than  it  is  worth,  so  that  he  can  make  a  profit  on  the  transac- 
tion. The  method  is  more  or  less  tricky,  since  it  usually  in- 
volves taking  advantage  of  the  economic,  social  and  psycho- 
logical naivete  of  the  reader.  The  results  accruing  to  the  reader 
or  to  the  advertiser  are  pretty  much  unpredictable  as  to 
either  party. 

The  majority  of  successful  propaganda  practice,  whether  by 
commercial  "public  relations  counsellors"  like  Edward  Ber- 
nays  and  Ivy  Lee  or  by  radical  propagandists  is  overt;  the 
name  of  the  propagandist  or  the  company  or  organization  he 
represents  is  typed  or  printed  at  the  top  of  his  release.  Some- 
times commercial  interests  use  dummy  organizations  as  a 
"front."  For  example,  the  munitions  makers  are  more  or  less 
back  of  the  National  Security  League,  just  as  the  Communists 
are  more  or  less  back  of  various  peripheral  organizations  in 
the  field  of  labor  defense,  relief,  etc.  But  to  suppose  that  the 
hard-boiled  publishers  and  editors  of  the  commercial  press  are 

taken  in  by  these  fronts  is  to  be  impossibly  na'ive.  Also,  in  the 
case  of  a  powerful  commercial  client,  such  as,  for  example,  the 
Rockefeller  interests,  Mr.  Lee  has  everything  to  gain  by 
having  the  release  come  from  26  Broadway.  And  in  the  case 
of  the  radical  propagandist,  nothing  makes  the  city  desk  so 
suspicious  and  sour  as  clumsy  attempts  at  indirection.  As 
already  pointed  out,  Benjamin's  "dress-rehearsal"  of  the  Hun- 
ger March  into  Washington  was  excellent  propaganda  and 
surely  that  was  overt  enough.  Admittedly,  occasional  veiled 
publicity  coups  come  off  successfully;  but  the  percentage  of 
such  triumphs  is  relatively  negligible  and  the  backlash  the 
next  time  you  try  to  make  the  papers  more  than  wipes  out 
your  gains. 

The  publicity  Machiavellis  of  the  National  Electric  Light 
Association  were  the  laughing  stock  of  the  public  relations 
profession  and  the  catastrophe  which  befell  them  was  cheer- 
fully predicted  long  before  it  happened.  They  failed  precisely 
because  they  were  not  sufficiently  overt.  So  far  as  the  press 
was  concerned,  all  they  had  to  do  was  to  walk  in  the  front 
door  of  the  business  office,  sign  their  advertising  contracts  and 
get  pretty  nearly  everything  they  wanted.  Expense?  "The 
public  pays  the  expense,"  to  quote  Deak  Aylesworth's  classic 
line.  Instead  of  which  they  employed  the  most  extraordinary 
collection  of  publicity  incompetents  that  has  ever  been  assem- 
bled under  one  tent.  They  were  equally  stupid  when  it  came 
to  professors.  All  they  succeeded  in  hiring  were  cheap  aca- 
demic hacks  who  in  the  end  did  them  more  harm  than  good. 

As  already  pointed  out,  business  can  influence  or  control  our 
schools  and  universities  when  it  wants  to  or  feels  that  it  has 
to.  Professor  Lumley's  ideal  purification  of  the  educational 
function  falls  down  at  this  point  and  at  a  number  of  others, 
suggested  in  the  following  questions:  how  does  an  educator, 
unless  one  grants  an  inconceivably  psychological  self-aware- 
ness, know  whether  or  not  be  is  "veiling"  the  origin  or  sources 
of  his  instruction,  the  interests  involved,  the  methods  in- 


volved  or  the  content  spread?  How  can  he  anticipate  the 
results  accruing  to  the  victims  of  either  education  or  propa- 

Apparently,  what  chiefly  confuses  liberals  like  Professor 
Lumley  is  the  residual  ideological  and  institutional  debris  of 
"democracy."  The  thing  becomes  instantly  explicit  and  forth- 
right when  rule  is  exercised  by  a  dictatorship  and  competi- 
tion for  rule  is  eliminated  by  force.  The  liberal  illusions  of  a 
free  press,  free  radio,  free  speech,  constitutional  rights,  objec- 
tive education,  etc.,  all  disappear  almost  overnight.  This  has 
been  happening  under  our  eyes  in  Russia,  Italy  and  Ger- 
many. Do  liberals  have  to  be  cracked  on  the  head  before  they 
can  see  it? 

Pinkevitch,  in  his  Education  in  Soviet  Russia,  classifies 
propaganda,  and  agitation  as  forms  of  education  operating  on 
somewhat  lower  intellectual  levels.  Press,  radio,  schools,  col- 
leges, are  all  owned  and  operated  by  the  state  as  instruments 
of  rule  in  behalf  of  the  ruling  class,  the  class  of  workers  and 
peasants.  The  purpose  for  which  these  instruments  are  used 
is  to  make  Communists,  just  as  they  are  used  in  Italy  to  make 
Fascists,  and  in  America  to  make  our  curious  menagerie  of 
capitalists,  capitalist  snuggle-pups,  saps,  suckers,  morons, 
snobs,  pacifists,  militarists,  wets,  drys,  Communists,  liberals, 
New  Dealers,  double  dealers  and  Holy  Rollers. 

In  America  the  industry  is  hugely  ramified  but  the  under- 
lying motivations,  controls  and  mechanisms  are  relatively 
simple,  although,  of  course,  as  in  any  transitional  period  of 
social  conflict,  the  balance  of  power  is  constantly  shifting.  A 
capitalist  democracy  is  a  state  of  conflict  almost  by  definition. 
Rather  than  to  catalogue  these  conflicts,  expressing  them- 
selves in  the  form  of  propaganda,  it  would  seem  more  profita- 
ble to  accept  our  instruments  of  social  communication  for 
what  they  are:  instruments  of  rule;  then  to  describe  how  these 
instruments  are  used,  in  whose  behalf  and  to  what  end. 




THE  conception  of  "Truth  in  Advertising"  is  at  once  the 
least  tenable  and  the  most  necessary  tenet  of  the  ad-man's 
doctrine.  This  contradiction  arises  from  the  fact  that  the 
advertising  business  is  essentially  an  enterprise  in  the  exploita- 
tion of  belief. 

It  is  untenable  because  profit-motivated  business,  in  its  rela- 
tions with  the  consumer,  is  necessarily  exploitative — not  mod- 
erately and  reasonably  exploitative,  but  exploitative  up  to  the 
tolerance  limit  of  the  traffic.  This  tolerance  limit  is  determined 
not  by  ethical  considerations,  which  are  strictly  irrelevant, 
but  by  the  ability  of  the  buyer  to  detect  and  penalize  dis- 
honesty and  deception.  This  ability  varies  with  the  individual, 
but  in  general  reaches  its  minimum  in  the  case  of  the  isolated 
ultimate  consumer. 

No  manufacturer,  in  buying  his  raw  materials  or  his 
mechanical  equipment,  trusts  the  integrity  of  the  seller  except 
in  so  far  as  he  is  obliged  to  do  so.  So  far  as  possible,  he  protects 
himself  by  specifications,  inspections  and  tests,  and  by  legally 
enforceable  contracts  that  penalize  double-dealing. 

But  when  the  manufacturer  or  retailer  turns  to  selling  his 
finished  product  to  the  ultimate  consumer,  the  situation  is 
reversed  and  the  elements  are  sharply  different.  In  his  natural 
state  the  ultimate  consumer  is  ignorant  enough  in  all  con- 
science. But  he  is  not  permitted  to  remain  in  his  natural  state. 
It  would  be  unprofitable,  unbusinesslike,  to  leave  him  in  his 


natural  state.  Hence  business  has  developed  the  apparatus  of 
advertising,  which,  as  the  editor  of  the  leading  advertising 
trade  publication  has  pointed  out,*  is  scarcely  a  thing  in 
itself,  but  merely  a  function  of  business  management. 

That  function  is  not  merely  to  sell  customers,  but  to  manu- 
facture customers.  Veblen,  with  his  customary  precision,  has 
indicated  both  the  object  and  the  technique  of  this  function: 

The  production  of  customers  by  sales  publicity  is  evidently  the 
same  thing  as  the  production  of  systematized  illusions  organized 
into  serviceable  "action  patterns" — serviceable,  that  is,  for  the  use 
of  the  seller  in  whose  account  and  for  whose  profit  the  customer  is 
being  produced. 

What  has  honesty  or  truth  to  do  with  this  business?  A  great 
deal,  because  the  idea  of  truth  is  a  highly  exploitable  asset. 
Always,  the  customer  must  be  made  to  feel  that  the  seller 
is  honest  and  truthful  and  that  he  needs  or  wants  the  product 
offered  for  sale.  Hence  the  advertising  business  becomes  an 
enterprise  in  the  coincident  manufacture  and  exploitation  of 
reader-confidence  and  reader-acceptance.  In  this  respect  the 
ad-man's  technique  is  not  essentially  different  from  that  of 
any  vulgar  confidence  man  whose  stock  in  trade  is  invariably 
a  plausible  line  of  chatter  about  his  alleged  "trustfulness" 
and  "honesty."  The  writer  has  watched  these  gentry  operat- 
ing all  the  way  from  Los  Angeles  to  Coney  Island.  Their 
annual  "take,"  while  less  than  that  of  their  respectable  cousins 
in  the  advertising  business,  is  still  enormous.  Their  techniques 
and  successes,  if  studied  by  sociologists,  would  I  am  convinced, 
yield  valuable  data  regarding  the  contemporary  American 
social  psychology. 

Once,  at  Signal  Hill,  near  Long  Beach,  California,  the  writer 
permitted  an  oil  stock  salesman  to  give  him  transportation 
from  Los  Angeles  to  the  oil  well,  and  to  lead  him  through  the 

Roy  Dickinson,  president  of  Printers'  Ink,  in  "Advertising  Careers.' 


successive  steps  by  which  the  "sucker"  is  noosed,  thrown  and 
shorn.  The  prospects,  consisting  of  about  a  hundred  more  or 
less  recently  arrived  Middle  Western  farmers,  their  wives  and 
children,  seemed  naively  appreciative  of  the  hot  dogs  and 
coffee,  and  of  the  genuinely  accomplished  sales  histrionism 
which  they  were  getting  free.  One  saw  that  they  were  devout 
believers  in  magic  of  the  cruder  sorts,  ranging  from  funda- 
mentalism, through  rugged  individualism,  and  spreading  into 
the  more  exotic  side-shows  of  Yoga,  the  Apostle  of  Oom, 
numerology,  spiritualism,  etc.,  etc.,  which  at  that  time  in- 
fested Los  Angeles  and  still  do.  Their  faces  were  weather- 
worn, their  hands  were  stubby.  They  were  indeed  enormously 
decent  and  hard-working  people — with  less  effective  knowl- 
edge of  their  social  environment  than  any  African  savage. 

At  the  climax  of  the  performance,  after  an  oil-smeared 
ex-vaudevillian  had  rampaged  up  the  aisle  proclaiming  that 
"No.  6  had  just  come  in  at  ten  thousand  gallons,"  a  scatter- 
ing few  came  forward  and  signed  on  the  dotted  line.  They 
did  so  with  a  kind  of  hypnotized  masochism — I  am  convinced 
that  many  of  them  were  instinctively  aware  that  they  were 
being  gypped. 

In  lieu  of  buying  any  of  the  promoter's  exquisitely  en- 
graved optimism,  I  took  him  aside  afterward  and  explained 
that  as  an  advertising  writer,  engaged  in  advertising  a  nearby 
subdivision — a  strictly  legitimate  enterprise  out  of  which 
many  of  the  buyers  made  a  good  deal  of  money — I,  too,  had 
a  stake  in  the  matter.  He  was  only  momentarily  embarrassed. 
Later,  on  the  basis  of  our  professional  kinship,  I  got  to  know 
him  sufficiently  so  that,  warmed  by  a  little  liquor,  he  became 
approximately  confidential. 

"Brother,"  I  remember  his  saying  (He  always  insisted  on 
calling  me  "brother") ,  "the  technique  of  this  racket  is  simple. 
Always  tell  the  truth.  Tell  a  lot  of  the  truth.  Tell  a  lot  more 
of  the  truth  than  anybody  expects  you  to  tell.  Never  tell  the 
whole  truth." 

My  colleague  omitted  one  important  element  from  his  for- 
mula, the  element  of  emotional  conviction,  which  I  had  seen 
him  manipulate  with  devastating  effectiveness.  It  is  observ- 
able that  the  most  charlatans,  like  the  best  advertising  men, 
are  always  more  than  half  sincere  and  honest  according  to 
their  lights.  Sincerity  is  indeed  a  great  virtue  in  an  ad-man, 
and  if  one  has  it  not,  one  must  at  least  feign  it.  In  this  con- 
nection I  recall  the  experience  of  a  friend  who  took  leave  of 
the  advertising  business  after  some  years  of  competent  and 
highly  paid  employment  in  that  business.  Her  employer,  while 
acknowledging  her  competence,  had  this  to  say  on  the  occasion 
of  her  resignation: 

"Miss ,  you  are  an  able  person  and  a  good  worker. 

In  my  judgment  you  have  only  one  fault.  You  are  not  loyal 
to  the  things  you  don't  believe  in." 

At  first  glance  this  statement  would  seem  to  plunge  us  into 
the  deep  water  of  metaphysics.  But  the  exegesis  is  simple.  The 
possession  of  a  personal  code  of  ethics  is  a  handicap  in  the 
practice  of  advertising-as-usual,  the  business  being  above  all 
else  impersonal,  and  in  fact  so  far  as  possible  de-humanized. 
One  must  be  loyal  to  the  process,  which  is  a  necessary  part 
of  the  total  economic  process  of  competitive  acquisition.  The 
god  of  advertising  is  a  jealous  god  and  tolerates  no  competing 
loyalties,  no  human  compunctions,  no  private  impurities  of 
will  and  judgment. 

The  yoke  of  this  jealous  god  chafes.  How  could  it  be  other- 
wise, unless  one  were  to  suppose  that  advertising  men  are  a 
selected  class  of  knaves  and  rascals?  They  are,  of  course,  noth- 
ing of  the  sort.  They  are  average  middle-class  Americans,  a 
bit  more  honest,  I  suspect,  than  the  average  banker  or  lawyer. 
In  their  personal  lives  they  are  likely  to  be  kindly,  truthful, 
just  and  generous.  They  would  doubtless  like  to  be  equally 
truthful  and  just  in  the  conduct  of  their  business.  But  this, 
in  the  nature  of  the  case,  is  impossible.  The  alternatives  are 
either  a  cynical,  realistic  acceptance,  or  heroic  gestures  of 


rationalization.  Hence  the  tremendous  pother  that  advertising 
men  make  about  "truth  in  advertising";  or  at  least,  that  is 
half  of  the  explanation.  The  other  half  lies  in  the  business-like 
necessity  of  keeping  advertising  in  good  repute;  of  nursing 
the  health  of  that  estimable  goose,  reader-confidence.  Are  they 
sincere,  these  advertising  men  who  conduct  this  "truth-in- 
advertising"  propaganda  which  is  echoed  and  re-echoed  by 
editors,  publicists,  economists,  sociologists,  preachers,  poli- 
ticians? How  can  one  tell,  and  does  it  really  matter? 

Quite  obviously,  advertising  is  an  enterprise  in  special  plead- 
ing conducted  outside  the  courts  of  law,  with  no  effective 
rules  of  evidence,  no  expert  representation  for  the  consumer, 
no  judge  and  no  jury.  To  continue  the  analogy:  in  a  court  of 
law  the  accused  swears  to  tell  "the  truth,  the  whole  truth, 
and  nothing  but  the  truth,"  but  if  he  is  guilty  nobody  expects 
him  to  do  so.  The  attorney  for  the  defense  is  theoretically 
bound  by  his  code  of  legal  ethics,  by  penalties  for  contempt 
of  court,  suborning  of  witnesses,  etc.  In  practice  he  usually 
makes  out  the  best  possible  case  for  his  client,  using  truth, 
half-truth  and  untruth  with  pragmatic  impartiality.  More- 
over, the  judge  and  the  jury  expect  him  to  do  precisely  that, 
just  as  they  expect  the  State's  attorney  to  use  all  possible  means 
to  secure  a  conviction.  Judge  and  jury  are  in  theory,  and 
ordinarily  in  practice,  disinterested.  They  balance  one  barrage 
of  special  pleading  against  the  other,  and  so  arrive  at  a  verdict 
based  on  the  evidence. 

It  is  generally  recognized  that  a  defense  attorney  does  not 
tell  the  truth,  or  permit  the  truth  to  be  told,  if  he  thinks  this 
truth  would  prejudice  the  case  of  his  client.  Why  should  it  be 
supposed  that  an  advertising  writer,  employed  to  sell  goods 
for  a  manufacturer  or  retailer,  can  afford  to  tell  the  truth, 
the  whole  truth,  and  nothing  but  the  truth,  and  refrain  from 
befuddling  the  judgment  of  his  prospect?  In  practice  he  tells 
precisely  as  much  of  the  truth  as  serves  the  interest  of  the 
advertiser,  and  precisely  as  much  expedient  half-truth  and 

untruth  as  he  believes  he  can  get  away  with,  without  impair- 
ing "reader-confidence."  If  it  seems  profitable  to  scare,  shame 
and  flatter  his  victim  he  does  so  unhesitatingly.  If  bought  - 
and-paid-for  testimonials  will  do  the  trick  many  agencies  buy 
them.  If  the  fastidiousness  or  timidity  of  the  publisher,  the 
barking  of  the  Federal  Trade  Commission  and  the  Food  and 
Drug  Administration,  or  the  protests  of  the  reforming  wing 
of  the  profession  make  it  seem  desirable  to  conceal  the  fact 
that  these  testimonials  were  bought  and  paid  for,  such  a  con- 
cealment is  effected. 

Privately,  the  cynics  of  the  profession  will  tell  you  that  this 
is  the  prevailing  practice,  including  their  own  practice.  Hav- 
ing learned  to  digest  their  ethical  sins,  they  have  no  need  of 
rationalizing  them.  These  cynics  leave  the  "reform  of  adver- 
tising" to  their  more  illusioned  colleagues  of  whom  they  tend 
to  be  coarsely  contemptuous.  The  plaint  of  the  reformers — 
vulgarly  referred  to  by  the  cynics  as  the  "Goose  Girls" — runs 
somewhat  as  follows: 

"The  exaggerations,  the  sophistries,  the  purchased  testi- 
monials, the  vulgarities,  the  outright  falsifications  of  current 
advertising  are  quite  intolerable.  Such  practices  are  destroying 
the  faith,  the  illusions,  the  very  will-to-live  of  'reader  con- 
fidence/ They  constitute  unfair  competition.  The  irrespon- 
sible agencies  and  advertisers  who  are  guilty  of  such  practices 
are  endangering  the  stability,  the  good  repute,  and  the  profits 
of  the  advertising  profession  as  a  whole." 

To  this  plaint  the  cynics  retort  somewhat  after  this  fashion: 

"You  fellows  prate  a  great  deal  about  'truth  in  advertis- 
ing.' What  do  you  mean,  truth,  and  what  has  the  truth  got 
to  do  with  this  racket?  You  say  we  are  killing  that  estimable 
goose,  reader-confidence,  the  goose  that  lays  the  golden  eggs 
of  advertising  profits.  Nonsense.  It  wasn't  the  goose  that 
squawked.  It  was  you.  And  the  reason  you  squawked  was  not 
because  you  really  give  a  whoop  about  'truth,'  but  because  we, 
with  our  more  sophisticated,  more  scientific  practice,  have 


been  chiselling  into  your  business.  We  can  prove  and  have 
proved  that  bought-and-paid-for  testimonials  sell  two  to  one 
as  compared  to  your  inept  cozenage,  your  primitive  appeals 
to  fear,  greed  and  emulation.  Furthermore,  the  ethics  of  adver- 
tising communications  is  relative  and  must  be  flexible.  You 
have  to  take  into  account  both  the  audience  to  which  such 
communications  are  addressed  and  the  object  which  these 
communications  are  intended  to  achieve,  and  demonstrably 
do  achieve. 

"The  audience,  by  and  large,  is  composed  of  1 4-year-old 
intelligences  that  have  no  capacity  for  weighing  evidence,  no 
experience  in  doing  so,  and  no  desire  to  do  so.  That  goes 
equally  for  the  readers  of  Vogue  and  the  readers  of  True 
Romances.  They  are  effectively  gulled  by  bought-and-paid- 
for  testimonials  and  even  appear  to  take  some  pleasure  in 
being  gulled.  They  buy  on  the  basis  of  such  corrupt,  false 
and  misleading  evidence,  and  this  way  of  selling  them  costs 
less  than  any  other  way  we  have  discovered.  It  is,  you  will 
grant,  our  duty  as  advertisers  and  as  advertising  agencies 
acting  in  behalf  of  our  clients,  to  advertise  as  efficiently  as 
possible,  thereby  reducing  the  sales  overhead  which  must  ulti- 
mately be  charged  to  the  consumer:  thereby,  incidentally, 
safeguarding  and  increasing  the  profits  of  the  companies  in 
which  hundreds  of  thousands  of  widows  and  orphans,  directly 
or  indirectly,  have  invested  their  all.  It  is  our  duty  to  use  every 
means  we  can  devise,  truthful  or  untruthful,  ethical  or  un- 
ethical, to  persuade  consumers  to  buy,  since  only  by  increased 
buying  can  the  country  be  pulled  out  of  this  depression.  Ours 
is  the  higher  morality.  The  burden  of  restoring  prosperity  is 
on  our  shoulders.  We  have  seen  our  duty  and  we  are  doing  it." 

Thus  the  cynics,  in  private.  I  must  confess  that  I  have  de- 
rived far  greater  intellectual  pleasure  from  the  utterances  of 
such  hard-boiled  devil's  disciples  than  from  the  plaintive 
reproaches  and  lamentations  of  the  Goose  Girls.  One  could 
wish,  indeed,  that  the  cynics  were  more  outspoken.  Unfor- 


tunately,  rationalization  is  the  order  of  the  day,  in  business 
as  in  politics.  Every  week  sees  another  proclamation  of  the 
new  order  of  probity  upon  which  business  is  entering  under 
the  New  Deal.  Even  Kenneth  Collins.  .  .  .  One  is  disap- 
pointed to  see  so  able  and  interesting  an  advertising  man 
pledge  himself  to  the  Goose  Girl  Sorority.  But  consider  the 
recent  advertising  of  Gimbels  department  store  in  New  York. 
Mr.  Collins  is  Gimbels'  advertising  manager,  having  recently 
transferred  his  talents  from  Macy's  across  the  street,  where 
he  had  achieved  a  notable  success  by  exploiting  the  slogan 
"It's  smart  to  be  thrifty." 

Mr.  Collins,  judged  by  his  writings  in  the  trade  press,  is 
something  of  a  realist.  One  can  only  conclude  therefore,  that 
when  he  assumed  his  new  duties,  his  survey  of  the  situation 
convinced  him  that  radical  measures  were  needed  for  the 
effective  exploitation  of  belief.  Here  is  the  advertisement  in 
which  the  new  "slant"  was  announced: 





Every  intelligent  person  will  join  us  in  a  great  new  campaign  for 
truth  in  advertising.  And  by  truth  we  mean  the  whole  truth,  and 
nothing  but  the  truth — exactly  what  you  demand  of  a  witness 
before  a  Senate  Committee,  or  of  your  own  children  at  home. 

Let  us  tell  you  a  straight  story. 

For  years  on  end,  we  at  Gimbels  have  been  thinking  that  we  were 
telling  the  truth.  We  have  been  supported  in  our  belief  by  "the 
custom  of  the  business,"  by  "trade  privilege,"  by  reports  from  the 
Better  Business  Bureau  of  New  York  and  by  the  comments  of  our 

But  what  we  have  been  telling  was,  so  to  speak,  "commercial 
truth."  We  would  tell  you,  quite  honestly,  that  a  certain  pair  of 
curtains  had  been  copied,  in  design,  from  a  famous  model,  that  the 


colors  were  pleasing,  that  the  price  was  very  low.  Every  word  of  this 
was  scrupulously  true.  But  we  may  have  failed  to  say  that  the  cur- 
tains would  probably  fade  after  one  or  two  seasons  of  wear. 

In  the  same  way,  we  would  tell  you  that  certain  dresses  had 
materials  of  good  quality,  that  the  styles  were  fresh,  and  the  price 
very  reasonable.  Every  word  of  this  was  scrupulously  true.  But  we 
may  have  failed  to  add  that  the  workmanship  was  by  machine  rather 
than  by  hand,  and  therefore  the  price  was  low. 

We  believe  it  is  time  to  take  a  revolutionary  step,  in  line  with  the 
beliefs  of  the  Administration,  and  of  the  opinions  of  intelligent 
people  everywhere.  We  believe  that  old-fashioned  "commercial 
truth"  has  no  place  in  the  New  Deal.  From  now  on,  all  Gimbels 
advertising  (and  every  word  told  you  by  a  Gimbel  salesman  or  sales- 
woman) will  be — 

The  truth,  the  whole  truth,  and  nothing  but  the  truth. 

How  are  we  going  to  assure  this?  It  is  human  to  make  mistakes, 
and  we  may  make  them.  If  so,  we  want  them  called  to  our  atten- 
tion. We  will  gladly  and  willingly  print  corrections.  But  we  believe 
we  will  make  few  errors,  for  this  reason:  as  a  check  on  our  store 
buyers,  and  our  advertising  writers,  we  have  employed  the  services 
of  a  famous  outside  research  laboratory — 



to  make  frequent  scientific  tests  of  the  materials,  workmanship  and 
value  of  the  goods  we  offer  for  sale.  This  is  one  of  the  best  equipped 
laboratories  of  its  kind  in  the  United  States,  with  a  reputation  of 
many  years  of  service  to  many  of  the  largest  industrial  corporations 
in  this  country.  They  are  experts  in  textiles,  and  chosen  for  this 
reason,  because  80%  of  our  merchandise  is  either  textile  or  de- 
pendent on  textile  for  wear. 

They  have  no  human  or  partisan  reason  to  give  us  the  benefit  of 
any  doubt.  They  will  give  us  impartial  tests  and  reports. 

Please  read  our  advertising  in  today's  News,  Journal,  Sun  and 
World-Telegram.  Bear  in  mind  when  you  read  the  advertising  of 
this  firm  that 


Note  the  astute  dedication  to  intelligence,  morality  and  unity 
of  interest  which  is  implicit  in  the  first  paragraph.  Just  what 
is  the  nature  of  this  "revolutionary  step,  in  line  with  the  be- 
liefs of  the  Administration,  and  of  the  opinions  of  intelli- 
gent people  everywhere,"  which  Gimbels,  under  the  leader- 
ship of  Mr.  Collins,  has  taken? 

Instead  of  contenting  itself,  as  in  the  past,  with  telling 
that  part  of  the  truth  which  might  be  expected  to  promote 
sales,  and  suppressing  the  part  which  would  tend  to  discour- 
age or  prevent  sales,  the  store  pledges  itself  to  "tell  the  whole 
truth."  For  example,  whereas  it  had  previously  described  a 
piece  of  cloth  truthfully  as  being  good  value,  it  would  add 
in  the  future,  the  further  truth  that  it  would  quickly  fade; 
it  would  say  that  a  raincoat,  while  worth  the  price  asked, 
would  last  only  a  year. 

One  readily  admits  that  this  does  represent  a  certain  gain 
for  the  consumer — a  gain  brought  about  either  by  the  evan- 
gelical enthusiasm  of  Gimbels  and  Mr.  Collins  for  the  New 
Deal,  or,  possibly,  by  the  coincident  collapse  of  the  con- 
sumer's confidence  and  the  consumer's  pocketbook,  and  the 
consequent  stiffening  of  his  sales  resistance.  Mr.  Collins  is  to 
be  credited  for  his  astuteness  in  recognizing  and  dealing  with 
this  condition.  In  fairness  one  should  also  credit  him  with  a 
personal,  though  far  from  unique  preference  for  fair  deal- 
ing, as  against  the  customary  chicaneries  of  salesmanship  and 

But — and  this  but  is  important — Gimbels  is  a  profit  mo- 
tivated corporation,  engaged,  like  any  other  business,  in  buy- 
ing as  cheaply  as  possible  and  selling  as  dearly  as  possible. 
The  Industrial  By-Products  and  Research  Corporation  of 
Philadelphia  will  undoubtedly  tell  the  whole  truth  and  noth- 
ing but  the  truth  to  Gimbels,  because  it  is  employed  by  Gim- 
bels, and,  in  respect  to  this  specific  service  at  least,  is  respon- 
sible to  Gimbels  and  to  Gimbels  alone.  But  will  Gimbels  pass 
on  this  whole  truth  and  nothing  but  the  truth  to  its  cus- 


tomers  and  to  the  readers  of  its  advertising?  The  whole  truth, 
including  the  truth  about  Gimbels'  profit-margin — all  the 
data  which  the  customer  would  require  in  order  to  measure 
value?  No  such  proposal  is  made.  At  this  point  the  customer 
is  protected  by  the  competition  of  other  merchants  and  by 
that  alone. 

No,  what  we  have  here  is  a  lot  of  the  truth,  more  of  the 
truth  than  anybody  expected  Gimbels  to  tell,  but  not  the 
whole  truth.  It  is  not  in  the  nature  of  profit-motivated  busi- 
ness to  tell  the  whole  truth.  Gimbels  is  paid  by  its  customers, 
but  is  responsible  ultimately,  not  to  its  customers,  but  to  its 
stockholders.  Hence  the  pressure  of  the  economic  determi- 
nants is  here  as  always  and  everywhere  toward  the  exploitation 
of  the  customer  up  to  the  tolerance  limit  of  the  traffic.  Pos- 
sibly this  tolerance  limit  is  narrowing.  I  am  not  sure. 

Mr.  Collins'  demarche  is  designed  to  produce  customers  by 
manufacturing  a  "systematized  illusion"  to  the  effect  that 
business  is  not  business,  and  that  the  customer,  on  entering 
Gimbels,  can  safely  put  aside  and  forget  the  maxim,  caveat 
emptor,  which  is  the  only  ultimate  protection  of  the  buyer 
in  a  profit-motivated  economy. 

Suppose  that  Mr.  Collins*  readers  are  convinced;  that  they 
do  stop  worrying  about  whether  they  are  being  cheated  or 
not.  They  would  like  to  do  this  because  it  would  certainly 
mean  a  great  saving  of  time,  money  and  energy.  But  what 
happens  if  they  do?  They  find  that  Gimbels'  stock  in  trade 
consists  not  merely  of  goods  but  of  "systematized  illusions" 
built  up  by  decades  of  advertising  and  capitalized  in  trade- 
marks which  add  a  considerable  percentage  to  the  cost  of  the 
product  and  a  still  higher  percentage  to  the  price  of  the 
product.  In  the  drug  and  cosmetics  department  they  would 
find  that  the  price  of  the  products  offered  for  sale  frequently 
represents  about  90%  of  advertising  bunk  and  10%  of  mer- 
chandize. Will  Gimbels,  which  is  pledged  to  tell  the  truth,  * 
the  whole  truth,  and  nothing  but  the  truth,  tell  them  that? 

No.  Does  the  Industrial  By-Products  and  Research  Corpora- 
tion know  this  part  of  the  truth?  It  either  knows  it  or  could 
easily  learn  it.  Is  this  truth  of  interest  and  value  to  the  cus- 
tomer? It  certainly  is.  Then  why  doesn't  Gimbels  buy  this 
truth  from  its  research  company  and  pass  it  on  to  its  cus- 
tomers? Because  Gimbels  is  a  profit-motivated  corporation 
responsible  not  to  its  customers  but  to  its  stockholders.  Be- 
cause the  manufacturers  of  these  absurdly  priced  and  inad- 
equately described  products  have  by  advertising  them,  built 
up  systematized  illusions  to  the  effect  that  they  are  worth 
the  price  asked  for  them.  Because  Gimbels,  which  is  not  in 
business  for  its  health  or  for  the  health  of  its  customers,  is 
obliged  both  to  carry  these  products,  and  not  tell  the  truth 
about  them,  or  lose  an  opportunity  for  making  a  profit — 
usually  a  high  profit — on  their  sale.  What  would  happen  if 
Gimbels  started  telling  the  truth  about  these  products?  The 
manufacturers  would  probably  bring  legal  or  economic  pres- 
sure to  bear,  sufficient  to  cause  Gimbels  to  cease  and  desist. 
Where  can  you  learn  the  truth  about  such  products?  From 
Consumers'  Research,  or  for  that  matter,  from  almost  any 
honest  testing  laboratory  you  chose  to  employ.  Why  does  Con- 
sumers' Research  really  tell  the  truth,  the  whole  truth,  and 
nothing  but  the  truth,  to  the  best  of  its  ability?  Because  it  is 
employed  by  and  responsible  to  its  subscribing  members — its 
customers.  Why  doesn't  Gimbels  tell  that  kind  of  truth  to  its 
customers?  Because  it  is  not  responsible  to  its  customers.  It  is 
responsible  to  its  stockholders. 

It  will  perhaps  be  argued  that  the  drug  and  cosmetic  de- 
partment is  exceptional.  It  is  somewhat  exceptional,  but  by 
no  means  unique.  The  breakfast  cereal  business  is  also  pri- 
marily an  advertising  business,  and  many  of  the  packaged 
"values"  offered  by  Gimbels  grocery  department  are  chiefly 
air,  paper,  cellophane  and  advertising. 

It  will  be  further  argued  that  these  areas  of  exploitation, 
entrenched  in  the  systematized  illusions  built  up  in  the  pub- 


lie  mind  by  advertising,  are  outside  Gimbels'  control.  But  is 
Gimbels  completely  frank  about  its  own  "house  products"? 
If  so,  Mr.  Collins  can  claim  a  real  revolution.  The  ordinary 
practice  of  the  retailer  in  substituting  a  house  product  for  an 
advertised  product  is  to  take  advantage  of  the  inflated  illusion 
of  value  built  up  by  advertising.  The  house  product  may  be, 
and  frequently  is,  as  good  or  better  than  the  advertised  prod- 
uct. The  price  asked  for  the  house  product  is  ordinarily  just 
enough  less  than  the  price  of  the  advertised  product  to  make 
the  substitution  acceptable  to  the  customer.  By  crawling  un- 
der the  tent  of  inflated  "values,"  erected  by  advertisers,  re- 
tailers are  able  to  make  excellent  profit  margins  through  such 
substitutions — in  the  case  of  such  a  product  as  face  cream, 
margins  running  up  to  three  hundred  and  four  hundred  per 
cent.  Wouldn't  it  be  wonderful,  Mr.  Collins,  if  Gimbels  made 
up  a  list  of  such  products  and  undertook  to  sell  them  for  ap- 
proximately reasonable  prices?  Would  this  be  in  line  with 
the  beliefs  of  the  Administration,  or  would  it  come  under  the 
head  of  "destructive  price  cutting"?  In  any  case,  wouldn't  it 
be  nice  for  the  consumer  and — just  possibly — good  business 
for  you? 

Sadly,  one  begins  to  suspect  that  the  able,  intelligent,  hard- 
boiled  Mr.  Collins  has  become  just  another  Goose  Girl.  The 
morale  of  the  geese  is  terrible  these  days.  Mr.  Collins  is  re- 
sponsible for  a  large  flock,  and  as  a  practical  advertising  man 
he  realises  that  he  must  do  something  about  it.  Hence,  with 
his  left  hand,  he  launches  "a  great  new  campaign  for  truth  in 
advertising."  But  his  right  hand  is  also  busy.  Alongside  this 
pronouncement  "Gimbels  Tells  the  Whole  Truth,"  we  find 
another  Gimbel  advertisement  headed  "Sky's  the  Limit!"  In 
this  advertisement  the  reflexes  of  the  reader  are  shrewdly  con- 
ditioned to  the  need  of  and  purchase  of  a  collection  of  beach 
chairs,  outdoor  tables,  etc.,  for  use  on  the  roofs  of  city  apart- 
ments— a  new  market.  This  would  seem  to  be  very  competent 
advertising-as-usual  in  the  modern  chatty  manner,  designed  to 

compete  with  the  interest  of  the  adjoining  news  columns.  It  is 
currently  argued  in  the  trade  that  this  is  good  "educational" 
advertising  because  it  manufactures  customers.  From  the 
consumer's  point  of  view  it  would  be  possible  to  contend  that 
what  the  consumer  is  interested  in  is  a  concise  description  of 
the  product  and  why  it  is  worth  its  price;  that  the  chatter, 
being  neither  news  nor  information,  is  a  tiresome  imperti- 
nence, intolerable  in  a  civilized  community.  But  then,  if  the 
consumers  had  that  much  sense,  they  would  no  longer  be 
geese.  So  that  Mr.  Collins'  big-hearted  services  as  Goose  Girl 
and  customer  producer  would  no  longer  be  required. 

This  example  and  that  of  the  Gillette  Safety  Razor  Com- 
pany which  is  examined  in  the  following  chapter,  have  been 
selected  because  in  both  cases  the  claim  of  truth-telling  is  ex- 
plicitly made.  But  for  the  fact  that  the  American  pseudo- 
culture  is  based  on  a  structure  of  make-believe,  which,  in 
turn  rests  on  layer  after  layer  of  the  accumulated  make-be- 
lieve of  past  decades  and  past  centuries,  it  would  not  even 
be  necessary  to  explode  such  claims  for  it  would  not  pay  to 
make  them.  Sufficient  to  say  that  when  an  advertiser  takes 
the  name  of  Truth,  it  is  in  the  nature  of  the  case  that  he 
should  do  so  in  vain,  and  with  either  conscious  or  uncon- 
scious hypocrisy;  that  the  coincident  appeal  to,  and  exploita- 
tion of,  reader-confidence  is  merely  one  of  the  necessary 
techniques  of  advertising  mendacity-as-usual.  The  documen- 
tation of  this  mendacity  has  been  sufficiently  attended  to  by 
Messrs.  Chase  and  Schlink  in  'Your  Money's  Worth,  by 
Messrs.  Schlink  and  Kallet  in  100,000,000  Guinea  Pigs  and 
by  the  run  of  the  mill  prosecutions  by  the  Federal  Trade 
Commission,  by  the  seizures  of  the  Food  and  Drug  Adminis- 
tration and  by  the  exposures  of  quack  proprietaries  by  the 
American  Medical  Association. 

The  conclusion  which  these  massive  accumulations  of  data 
add  up  to  in  the  minds  of  good  citizens  in  and  out  of  the 
advertising  business  is  that  the  abuses  of  advertising  should 

be  corrected;  that  Congress  should  pass  another  law;  indeed, 
as  I  write  this,  Congress  seems  likely  to  pass  another  law, 
which  will  be  discussed  in  the  concluding  chapters  of  this 
book.  As  a  former  advertising  man,  made  familiar  by  years 
of  practice  with  the  various  techniques  of  the  profession,  the 
naivete  of  this  conclusion  leaves  me  groaning  with  despond- 
ency. Congress  can  and  probably  will  legislate  itself  blue  in 
the  face,  without  changing  an  iota  of  the  basic  economic 
and  cultural  determinants,  and  so  long  as  these  determinants 
continue  to  operate  the  exploitation  of  the  consumer  will 
simply,  in  response  to  criticism,  spin  the  kaleidoscope  of  tech- 
nical adaptations.  To  put  it  more  brutally,  advertising  will 
merely  find  new  ways  of  manufacturing  suckers  and  trim- 
ming them.  Mendacity  is  a  function  of  trade  and  observes  no 
ethical  limits  just  as  military  warfare  observes  no  ethical 
limits.  Advertising  is  an  exploitation  of  belief.  The  raw  ma- 
terial of  this  traffic  is  not  merely  products  and  services  but 
human  weakness,  fear  and  credulity.  In  the  end,  as  Veblen 
pointed  out  in  the  penetrating  footnote  already  quoted,  it 
becomes  a  "trading  on  that  range  of  human  infirmities  which 
flowers  in  devout  observances  and  fruits  in  the  psychopathic 

To  do  them  justice,  the  Goose  Girls — the  reformers  have 
come  to  constitute  almost  a  sub-profession  of  the  profession 
itself — are  in  many  cases  entirely  sincere,  since  the  ideas  of  a 
unified,  functional  society  is  something  undreamed  of  in 
their  philosophies,  or  in  the  textbooks  of  orthodox  laissez 
faire  economists  for  that  matter.  Few  of  them  are  as  logical 
or  as  frank  as  the  banker,  Paul  M.  Mazur,  who  in  his  book, 
American  Prosperity,  Its  Causes  and  Consequences,  has  this 
to  say  about  the  "Truth  in  Advertising"  ballyhoo: 

But  should  advertising  ever  limit  itself  under  judicial  oath  to 
tell  the  whole  truth,  unvarnished  and  unadorned,  woe  betide  con- 
fidence in  America's  products  and  industry.  ...  If  the  whole 


truth  were  really  told,  the  career  of  advertising  would  degenerate 
from  the  impact  of  a  powerful  hydraulic  hammer  to  a  mildly  re- 
proving weak  slap  on  the  wrist. 

So  far  as  the  writer  is  aware,  the  Better  Business  Bureau 
has  never  denounced  Mr.  Mazur  for  this  heresy — has  never 
even  given  him  a  "mildly  reproving  weak  slap  on  the  wrist." 





The  Truth  About  the  Shavers 

SOME  time  during  the  decade  following  the  Civil  War,  and 
for  reasons  unknown,  whiskers  began  to  go  out  in  America. 
But  this  fashion  mutation  ran  counter  to  the  conservatism  of 
nature,  according  to  which  whiskers  continued  to  come  in. 
Thus,  by  the  mysterious  power  of  fashion,  a  great  new  in- 
dustry was  created,  giving  employment  to  millions  of  people, 
and  carrying  the  banner  of  progress  to  the  most  remote  cor- 
ners of  the  inhabited  globe. 

It  was  the  period  during  which  the  major  vested  interests 
of  the  American  capitalist  economy  were  being  parceled  out 
and  consolidated.  Railroads,  coal,  oil.  And  now,  chins.  Nude 
chins,  or  rather,  the  dynamic,  progress-generating  conflict 
between  biology  and  creative  myth,  expressed  in  the  man- 
made  taboo  on  whiskers. 

The  ground-plan  of  this  industry,  as  laid  down  by  the 
founding  fathers,  bears  the  unmistakable  mark  of  genius,  com- 
bining as  it  does  subtlety  and  a  certain  chaste  and  beautiful 
simplicity.  The  annual  wheat  harvest  is  worth  so  much,  in 
plus  or  minus  figures — mostly  minus  in  recent  years.  The 
daily  whisker  harvest  is  worth  so  much — always  plus,  the 
market  being  certain  and  the  crop  utterly  reliable  and  inde- 
pendent of  the  acts  of  God.  Moreover,  by  an  application  on 
a  grandiose  scale  of  the  Tom  Sawyer  theory  of  business  enter- 
prise, the  harvest  hands  actually  pay  for  bringing  in  a  crop 
which  in  itself  is  worth  nothing. 


Nobody  knows  who  started  the  taboo  on  whiskers.  Not 
even  a  wooden  cross  marks  the  unknown  grave  of  this  un- 
known soldier.  But  greatness  was  indisputably  his.  He  changed 
the  face  of  the  human  race.  He  kept  Satan  at  bay  by  furnish- 
ing work  for  idle  hands  to  do — all  male  hands,  every  morn- 
ing, three  hundred  and  sixty-five  days  of  the  year.  He  mocked 
at  natural  law.  He  refashioned  the  civilized  ideal  of  masculine 
beauty.  He  added  uncounted  millions  to  the  wealth  of  this 
and  other  countries,  expressed  in  stock  and  bond  "securities," 
and  in  deeds  and  titles  to  physical  properties.  The  religion 
which  he  founded  spread  quickly  into  all  lands;  it  brought 
light  and  leading  to  the  wandering  tribes  of  darkest  Africa; 
the  Igorrotes  came  down  out  of  their  trees  and  rejoiced  in  the 
new  gospel;  even  the  Eskimos  within  the  Arctic  Circle  ate 
less  blubber  and  turned  to  higher  things. 

No  other  religion  can  claim  an  equal  number  of  adherents. 
Christianity,  Islam,  Buddhism,  Hinduism,  Atheism  have  all 
slain  their  millions.  But  the  Shavers  are  as  the  sands  of  the 
sea,  and  death  would  be  too  good  for  them.  It  would  not  be 
good  business. 

Moreover,  as  contrasted  with  the  faltering  faith  of  these 
other  decadent  sects,  the  Shavers  prove  their  loyalty  by  the 
punctilious  observance  of  a  daily  ritual  and  by  regular  tithes 
contributed  to  the  coffers  of  the  True  Church. 

As  already  noted,  the  founder  of  this  church  is  unknown. 
Quite  possibly,  he  died  in  poverty  and  obscurity.  But  the 
Great  Apostle  of  the  Shavers  was  King  C.  Gillette.  He  be- 
came famous  and  rich.  Quite  probably  his  portrait  has  been 
more  widely  disseminated  than  that  of  any  other  religious 
leader  in  the  history  of  the  world.  When  he  died  he  left  a 
large  fortune,  made  out  of  nothing;  made  out  of  "such  stuff 
as  dreams  are  made  on." 

The  writer  is  a  Shaver  and  will  probably  die  a  Shaver.  Why, 
he  does  not  know.  His  father  was  a  Shaver.  The  only  whiskers 
in  his  immediate  family  environment  adorned  the  chin  of  his 


maternal  grandfather,  who  was  some  special  kind  of  Shouting 
Methodist,  I  believe.  At  the  age  of  ninety,  he  was  still  strok- 
ing those  whiskers  and  singing  lustily  "There  is  a  Green  Hill 
Far  Away."  There  was  also  old  Maginnis,  the  Celery  King, 
but  he  was  a  very  dirty  and  eccentric  old  man,  whom  the 
Shavers  used  as  a  Horrible  Example. 

The  myth  had  been  invented  some  years  before  I  was  born, 
and  during  my  childhood  the  taboo  on  whiskers  became  in- 
creasingly strict.  The  faces  of  the  young  men  especially  were 
vigilantly  watched  for  signs  of  heresy.  Whiskers  were  derided 
as  a  mark  of  effeminacy.  Even  mustaches  were  considered  a 
dangerous  deviation  from  the  Pure  Faith. 

On  my  sixteenth  birthday,  my  father  presented  me  with  a 
Gillette  Safety  Razor,  and  from  that  day  on  I  observed  the 
ritual  punctiliously,  although  during  the  early  months  the 
harvest  was  meagre.  The  blades,  I  noted,  were  marked,  "Not 
To  Be  Re-Sharpened."  This  I  took  to  be  an  Article  of  the 
Faith,  which  I  scrupulously  obeyed,  although  it  meant  that, 
since  money  was  scarce,  a  package  of  blades  had  to  last  at 
least  a  year.  The  first  thirty  days  were  the  hardest.  After  that 
the  frictional  heat  generated  by  repeated  scraping  was  suffi- 
cient to  cauterize  my  wounds. 

I  remember  that  my  grandfather,  observing  the  lamentable 
condition  of  my  chin,  once  urged  that  I  see  if  his  knife  hone 
wouldn't  help  those  blades  a  bit.  I  repelled  the  suggestion 
with  scorn.  Grandfather  and  I  were  in  opposite  camps.  He 
was  a  Shouting  Methodist  and  a  bearded  ancient.  I  was  an 
atheist  and  a  Young  Shaver. 

The  effects  of  this  early  religious  training  still  linger.  At 
various  times  I  have  wondered  what  I  would  look  like  in  my 
natural  whiskered  state.  But  what  would  people  say?  And 
what  would  happen  to  my  job?  And  how  would  my  best 
girl  feel  about  it?  So  the  next  morning  I  would  turn  a  deaf 
ear  to  those  perverse  curiosities,  and  perform  again  the  ritual 
of  the  Gospel  According  to  King  C.  Gillette. 


I  am  reconciled  now.  Never  while  I  live  shall  I  look  in  the 
mirror  and  see  the  image  of  myself  as  nature  intended  me  to 
be.  I  am  not  myself.  I  am  not  my  own  master.  I  am,  like 
millions  of  my  fellow  men,  a  Shaver. 

I  remember  that  shortly  before  the  war,  there  was  a  minor 
outcropping  of  heresy.  The  Spirit  of  Doubt  was  abroad  in  the 
land,  and  the  morals  of  the  young  were  being  sapped  by  the 
insidious  infection  of  a  materialist  culture.  Once  I  recall  see- 
ing a  young  man  under  thirty,  doubtless  in  a  spirit  of  bravado, 
enter  a  public  restaurant  looking  like  the  portraits  of  Alex- 
ander Dowie.  Quietly  but  firmly  the  waiters,  with  stern,  set, 
smooth-shaven  faces,  put  him  out  into  the  night.  Such  devil's 
disciples  were  rare,  but  unquestionably  the  minds  of  the 
people  were  troubled.  One  shrinks  from  imagining  what  might 
have  happened  but  that,  just  at  the  crucial  moment,  the 
President  declared  war.  Force  without  stint.  The  Huns  were 
at  the  gate.  The  whiskered  Bolsheviks  of  Russia  were  attack- 
ing the  very  foundations  of  civilization. 

In  the  tremendous  outpouring  of  religious  faith  and  de- 
votion that  followed,  all  doubts  were  swept  aside.  And  the 
True  Church  did  not  fail  to  do  its  bit.  Sitting  in  solemn  con- 
clave in  Boston  the  synod  of  the  Church  decreed  that  not  one 
American  doughboy  should  lose  his  immortal  soul  for  lack 
of  proper  equipment  to  perform  the  ritual. 

I  have  reason  to  know  that  the  Church  made  good  on  this 
patriotic  commitment.  Along  with  two  million  other  Shavers 
I  went,  as  a  private  soldier,  to  France.  I  knew  what  I  was 
fighting  for.  Those  whiskered  Bolsheviks,  and  those  bearded 
German  professors  who  had  signed  the  manifesto  pledging 
science  and  scholarship  to  the  aid  of  the  Huns! 

Before  I  sailed  I  was  presented  at  various  times  with  eight 
separate  and  complete  shaving  kits.  Three  of  them  were  the 
official  equipment  of  the  True  Church;  the  others  were  put 
out  by  various  dissenting  sects  which,  however,  had  made 
common  cause  with  King  C.  Gillette  in  the  Great  Crusade. 


Since  I  regarded  these  gifts  as  church  property  I  preserved 
them  carefully,  although  the  transportation  problem  was 
difficult  for  a  private  soldier.  My  pack  had  only  limited  ca- 
pacity, and  in  the  aggregate  this  plethora  of  equipment  added 
quite  a  bit  to  the  load  I  staggered  under  on  long  hikes.  With 
the  best  will  in  the  world,  I  found  that  they  tended  to  drop 
out  of  the  pack,  to  fall  into  mess  kettles,  and  otherwise  dis- 
appear. But  I  still  had  six  when  I  sailed. 

Before  I  left  the  boat  I  was  presented  with  three  more.  At 
the  base  hospital  the  Y.M.C.A.  secretary  insisted  on  giving 
me  another  pair.  I  attempted  to  protest,  but  his  face  froze, 
and  I  took  them.  This  was  getting  a  bit  thick  I  felt.  My  face 
was  o.k.  I  shaved  every  morning,  in  cold  water  at  that.  What 
was  I  expected  to  do  with  those  eleven  kits?  Then  a  great 
idea  occurred  to  me.  I  would  give  them  away.  Besides  doing 
my  bit  at  the  front,  I  would  enlist  my  services  in  the  Prop- 
aganda of  the  Faith,  using  the  materials  with  which  the  Church 
had  provided  me. 

I  gave  one  to  a  bearded  priest  who  was  serving  as  bran- 
cardier  with  a  French  ambulance  section  to  which  my  unit 
was  attached.  He  would  only  take  one,  and  I  was  a  little  sad- 
dened later  when  I  found  him,  still  jolly  and  hirsute,  using 
the  blade  as  a  nail  cutter.  Except  for  one  bearded  old  peas- 
ant woman  who  chased  me  out  of  her  bistro,  I  had  better 
luck,  curiously,  with  the  women.  I  gave  six  separate  shaving 
kits  to  six  different  marraines,  chiefly  laundresses  and  bar- 
maids in  French  villages  behind  the  lines.  The  women  shaved 
too,  it  seemed.  Obviously,  the  war  was  going  better  than  I 
had  thought  it  was. 

However,  I  made  no  real  headway,  because  more  shaving 
kits  kept  coming  in,  from  the  Y.M.C.A.  and  through  the 
mails  from  solicitous  maiden  aunts  at  home.  I  broke  down 
gradually  and  took  to  leaving  them  in  the  pig  pens  where  we 
occasionally  lodged,  and  where,  in  the  nature  of  things,  they 
would  be  of  no  service  to  the  Cause.  Even  so,  I  reflected,  I 


was  better  off  than  the  mules.  The  quartermaster's  depart- 
ment, I  was  informed,  had  been  supplied  with  300,000 
branding  irons  for  the  mules.  I  wondered  what  the  mules 
would  do  with  them.  Provided  there  were  any  mules.  In  six 
months  at  the  front  I  never  saw  one;  nothing  but  a  herd  of 
Algerian  donkeys,  once,  which  rapidly  disappeared  into  the 
French  soupe.  But  if  there  had  been  mules  doubtless  they 
would  have  branded  themselves  thoroughly.  The  Church,  I 
reflected,  was  not  alone  in  its  outpouring  of  patriotic  service. 
With  all  this  I  can  testify  that  the  morale  of  the  American 
troops  was  high.  We  shaved.  We  shaved  almost  every  day. 
We  shaved  with  ditch  water.  We  shaved  with  luke  warm 
coffee.  After  excusable  omissions  of  the  ritual,  caused  by  duty 
at  the  front,  we  shaved  twice.  For  God.  For  Country.  For 
King  C.  Gillette. 

What  happened  after  the  Armistice  was  a  different  matter. 
As  I  look  back,  it  would  seem  that  the  whole  magnificent 
structure  of  American  idealism  crumbled  almost  overnight. 

It  was  a  fact,  a  regrettable  fact,  but  a  fact,  that  the  chins 
of  the  American  doughboys  were  pretty  sore.  They  started 
wagging.  Some  of  the  things  they  said  I  hesitate  even  now  to 

They  said  they  had  too  damned  many  shaving  kits.  They 
regretted  that  the  envelopes  protecting  the  blades  were  not 
larger  so  that  the  paper  might  be  used  for  purposes  for  which 
the  quartermaster's  department  provided  no  regular  sup- 
plies. They  pointed  out  that  whereas  every  soldier  was 
equipped  with  a  dozen  or  so  of  shaving  kits  of  assorted  brands, 
none  of  these  kits  was  equipped  with  more  than  one  blade. 
The  Y.M.C.A.  gave  you  razors  but  no  blades.  You  had  to 
buy  the  blades.  And  the  blades  were  extraordinarily  dull.  I 
remember  that  one  godless  doughboy  asserted  in  plain  words 
that  they  were  made  dull  on  purpose.  Nothing  happened  to 
him.  In  due  time  he  was  honorably  discharged  from  the  serv- 
ice and  I  met  him  later  in  civil  life.  The  doughboys  talked  a 


good  deal  about  those  blades.  Sometimes,  in  the  evenings, 
there  was  enough  chin  music  of  this  sort  to  drown  out  the 
regimental  band.  Always,  in  such  sessions,  the  name  of  King 
C.  Gillette  would  be  intimately  and  often  obscenely  coupled 
with  the  Y.M.C.A. 

It  was  probably  just  shell  shock — the  reaction  from  the 
hardships  and  dangers  of  the  front.  For  myself,  although  a 
little  disheartened,  I  could  excuse  the  talk.  It  was  the  things 
they  did.  They  took  to  shying  shaving  kits  at  truant  pigs. 
The  main  street  of  a  French  village  where  we  were  quartered 
became  littered  with  them  and  the  Mayor  protested.  The 
lieutenant  ordered  out  a  detail,  and  a  dozen  men  faced  court- 
martial  rather  than  move  a  step.  Nothing  happened.  The 
lieutenant,  it  soon  appeared,  was  growing  a  beard. 

I  am  a  good  Shaver  still,  but  naturally  I  did  not  go  through 
this  experience  unscathed.  And  in  the  years  that  followed 
the  Armistice  I  could  not  help  observing  that  the  Church 
seemed  to  be  slipping.  The  phrase  "not  to  be  re-sharpened" 
was  no  longer  engraved  on  the  blades — a  doctrinal  concession 
to  modernism  for  which  the  official  church  was  to  pay 
heavily,  for  innumerable  re-sharpening  contraptions  were 
soon  on  the  market  and  some  of  them  were  more  or  less 
effective.  Meanwhile,  the  chin  music  increased  in  volume  and 
shrillness  until  at  last  the  Church  was  obliged  openly  to  take 
the  field  against  the  growing  heresy. 

In  1926  the  Gillette  Safety  Razor  Company  spent  nearly  a 
million  dollars  in  newspaper  and  magazine  advertising.  The 
copy  was  moderate  in  tone,  attempting  to  reason  the  children 
back  into  the  fold.  The  blades  had  been  improved.  They  were 
continually  being  improved.  The  mass  production  process  by 
which  they  were  produced  was  incredibly  accurate  and  was 
checked  by  innumerable  inspections  of  the  finished  product. 
The  steel  used  was  the  best  and  most  expensive  tool  steel  ob- 
tainable. True  believers  should  understand,  when  they  ex- 
perienced pain  and  consequent  doubt  in  connection  with 

performing  the  daily  ritual  of  the  Faith,  that  it  wasn't  the 
blade's  fault.  It  might  be  the  weather.  Or  the  stiffness  of  the 
communicant's  bristles.  Or  the  hardness  of  the  water.  Or  the 
temporary  and  excusable  hardness  of  the  communicant's 
heart,  induced  by  a  late  party  the  night  before. 

Reading  this  campaign  I  knew  in  my  heart  that  it  marked 
the  beginning  of  the  end.  Not  so  would  old  King  C.  Gillette 
have  spoken  in  the  great  days  before  that  erratic  genius  sold 
out  his  interests  to  the  bankers,  and  went  gaga  as  amateur 
economist  and  world -saver.  The  Church  had  become  rich  and 
soft.  Where  the  Great  Apostle  had  once  peddled  his  invention 
at  ten  dollars  a  kit  from  door  to  door,  the  degenerate  princes 
of  the  Church  now  gave  the  razors  away  with  a  tube  of  shav- 
ing cream.  True,  the  empire  was  now  huge,  and  rich  tribute 
in  the  form  of  profits  on  blades  flowed  in  from  every  quar- 
ter of  the  globe.  But  godless  men,  actuated  by  motives  of 
material  gain  and  without  license  of  the  True  Church,  had 
actually  ventured  to  manufacture  blades  suitable  for  the  of- 
ficial razor  and  offer  them  for  sale  in  the  marts  of  trade. 
And  to  such  a  low  ebb  had  the  morale  of  the  faithful  sunk 
that  more  and  more  these  blades  were  purchased  and  used. 
So  that  the  prestige  of  the  True  Church  was  shaken  and  its 
tithes  reduced. 

Again  the  following  year  the  Church  struck  out  with  a 
huge  advertising  campaign.  But  again  the  note  of  authority 
was  missing  from  its  pronouncements.  The  blades  too,  lacked 
edge,  or  at  least  the  chins  of  the  faithful  continued  wagging 
to  that  effect.  This  heresy  was  encouraged  by  a  subversive 
organization  known  as  Consumer's  Research,  which  informed 
its  subscribers  that  some  of  the  competing  blades  were  per- 
haps a  little  better  than  the  official  equipment — not  much, 
but  a  little.  Other  insidious  rumors  went  forth;  one  to  the 
effect  that  the  Church  had  even  gone  so  far  as  to  manufac- 
ture and  sell,  under  a  shameful  disguise  from  which  the  face 
of  the  Great  Apostle  had  been  removed,  cheap  and  inferior 


blades  designed  to  compete  both  with  the  mavericks  and  with 
the  official  product. 

Day  after  day  this  subversive  chin  music  gained  in  volume 
and  in  ominousness.  Meanwhile  a  major  crisis  approached  in 
the  internal  economy  of  the  church.  By  virtue  of  the  original 
patents  issued  by  the  State,  the  gospel  according  to  Gillette 
had  become  an  Established  Church  and  the  Gillette  Com- 
pany enjoyed  a  monopoly  in  the  sale  of  the  patented  razor. 
This  greatly  helped  in  keeping  the  ritual  pure,  as  also  in  the 
collection  of  tithes.  But  within  a  year  these  patents  would 
expire.  Chaos,  certainly  would  ensue  unless  somehow,  some- 
where, the  officialdom  of  the  Church  could  muster  a  little 

Long  conferences  were  held,  and  at  last  a  decision  was 
reached.  The  Church  would  apply  for  patents  on  an  improved 
razor  and  an  improved  blade,  which  latter  would  fit  the  old 
razor  also.  But  since  it  would  be  patented,  the  conscienceless 
mercenaries  who  already  infested  the  market  would  be 
stopped  from  imitating  it.  Meanwhile,  the  Church  would  put 
forth  huge  quantities  of  the  new  razor,  offered  to  the  faithful 
free  with  a  tube  of  shaving  cream.  In  a  short  space  of  time 
the  new  razors  would  displace  the  old  and  since  they  required 
the  new  blades  which  only  the  official  Church  would  be  en- 
titled to  make  and  sell,  the  elders  of  the  Church  would  once 
more  sit  at  ease  in  Zion  and  further  diversion  of  the  tithes 
would  be  prevented. 

Everything  went  through  as  scheduled  except  those  essen- 
tial iron  clad  patents.  By  some  fluke  or  treachery,  just  before 
the  Church's  New  Deal  for  the  Shavers  was  announced  the 
market  was  flooded  with  blades  which  fitted  the  new  razor 
perfectly,  as  well  as  the  old  razor.  And  the  State  remained 
neutral.  And  the  Elders  rent  their  garments.  And  the  Shavers? 
It  is  appalling  to  realize  how  little  the  Shavers  cared  about 
the  whole  matter  except  that,  finding  the  heretical  blades  to 
be  of  reasonably  good  quality,  they  bought  them  in  great 

quantities.  So  that  the  Elders  were  obliged  to  seek  out  the 
.heretic,  and  purchase  his  business  for  a  large,  a  very  large 
sum  of  money.  And  a  little  later,  after  the  stock  market 
crash,  the  stockholders  of  the  Church  questioned  the  states- 
manship of  the  elders — in  fact  raised  hell.  So  did  a  hundred 
circumcised  and  uncircumcised  owners  of  production  ma- 
chinery that  could  turn  out  blades,  for  countless  new  brands 
appeared  on  the  market. 

The  later  history  of  the  Church  is  almost  too  melancholy  to 
record.  Remembering  the  genius  of  the  Great  Apostle,  the 
Elders  sought  out  one  of  the  most  famous  Doctors  of  Adver- 
tising Homiletics  in  America  and  told  him  to  launch  a  new 
advertising  campaign.  He  did  so.  He  gave  the  Faithful  the  old 
time  religion  plus  a  dash  of  Listerined  Freud.  "Am  I  losing  my 
husband's  love?"  (Picture  of  weeping  wife;  copy  plucks  at 
the  conscience  of  the  husband  who  is  forgetful  of  the  morn- 
ing ritual;  the  cheek  you  love  to  touch.) 

Too  late.  It  didn't  work.  So  then  what  did  those  dumb 
elders  do?  The  Truth!  The  Truth,  no  less,  with  the  elders 
themselves  beating  their  breasts  and  crying  "Mea  Culpa." 
The  truth  being  a  confession  that  for  a  while  the  official 
blades  were  not  so  good,  but  now  they're  much  better,  please, 
and  we're  honest  men  and  need  the  money. 

The  truth,  forsooth!  Since  when  has  a  self-respecting 
church  felt  called  upon  to  defend  its  divinely  inspired  truth 
against  the  hecklers  of  the  market  place? 

The  official  blades  are  better  now,  they  say.  And  they  cost 
just  about  half  what  they  formerly  cost.  I  don't  care.  I  am  a 
Shaver,  a  devout  Shaver,  if  you  like,  but  after  all  that  has 
happened,  I  can  no  longer  be  a  faithful  churchman.  I  buy 
any  old  blades.  A  while  back  I  bought  a  re-sharpening  con- 
traption and  it  worked  more  or  less.  And  just  the  other  day 
I  got  out  grandfather's  hone  which  he  specifically  bequeathed 
to  me.  It  is  a  good  hone.  It  has  been  a  good  hone  since  1833. 
In  fact  it  does  a  better  job,  with  less  trouble  than  the  con- 


traption.  I  suspect  that  there  are  by  this  time  thousands  like 
me.  Ours  is  indeed  a  faithless  generation.  And  the  Church 
does  so  little  for  us.  Beards  are  coming  in  again,  I  suspect. 
Some  of  my  best  friends  are  sporting  mustaches.  And  one  of 
them  has  a  red  beard  a  foot  long — says  it  prevents  colds. 

Well,  one  man  can't  be  expected  to  stand  alone  against 
these  heresies.  And  the  Church  is  impotent,  or  at  least  silent, 
while  the  evil  grows.  There  is  House  of  David,  for  example. 
And  Senator  J.  Ham  Lewis.  And  Chief  Justice  Hughes.  Old 
King  C.  Gillette  would  have  known  how  to  meet  that  issue 
like  a  man  and  a  Shaver.  But  if  the  Church  has  ever  issued  a 
bull  against  Justice  Hughes  I  have  no  record  of  it. 

Now  that  the  Church  has  lost  its  grip,  I  suppose  it's  a  mat- 
ter for  the  NRA. 

A  great  industry  is  at  stake.  The  livelihoods  of  thousands 
of  workers  hang  in  the  balance.  Congress  ought  to  pass  a  law. 





WE  HAVE  seen  that,  since  advertising  is  essentially  a  traffic  in 
belief,  the  profession  habitually  takes  the  name  of  Truth, 
though  usually  in  vain.  But  since  Beauty  is  Truth,  Truth, 
Beauty,  the  profession  is  also  forever  rendering  vain  oblations 
at  the  shrine  of  Beauty. 

This  worship  has  two  major  phases.  The  first  is  the  manu- 
facture, by  advertising,  of  successive  exploitable  concepts  of 
feminine  beauty,  of  beauty  in  clothes,  houses,  furniture, 
automobiles,  kitchens,  everything.  The  second  phase  of  this 
worship  has  to  do  with  the  ad-man's  view  of  his  own  craft, 
and  would  appear  to  represent,  in  part  at  least,  a  perversion 
of  the  normal  human  instinct  of  workmanship. 

From  some  reason  it  is  thought  necessary  for  the  ad-man, 
not  merely  to  sell  the  idea  of  beauty  for  profit,  but  to  sell 
beauty  beautifully.  Why?  Is  there  not  something  excessive 
and  pathological  about  advertising's  will-to-be-beautiful? 

It  is  contended  that  an  attractively  designed  advertisement 
of  an  allegedly  beautiful  toilet  seat  is  more  effective  than  an 
ugly  advertisement  of  the  same  object.  But  this  has  never 
been  proved  conclusively.  On  the  contrary,  there  are  many 
examples  of  very  ugly  advertising  which  have  been  excep- 
tionally effective.  Yet  the  desire  for  beauty  in  advertising  is 
inextinguishable  and  has  more  or  less  had  its  way.  Fifteen 
years  ago  the  well-designed  newspaper  or  magazine  adver- 
tisement was  the  exception;  today  it  is  the  rule.  Has  the  ef- 


fectiveness  of  advertising  increased  proportionately?  On  the 
contrary,  it  has  decreased,  and  one  of  the  factors  in  this  de- 
cline is  undoubtedly  the  increased  cost  of  producing  this 
economically  superfluous  beauty  in  advertising.  In  any  case, 
beauty  of  design  or  text  is  only  one  of  the  many  variable, 
more  or  less  unknown  and  unpredictable  factors  in  the  sell- 
ing relationship  established  by  the  advertisement.  And  fi- 
nally, it  would  be  easy  to  show  that  even  in  1929,  when  artists 
were  often  paid  $2,000  for  a  single  painting,  photographers 
$500  for  a  single  print  and  typographers  equally  fancy  prices 
— even  in  the  heyday  of  art-in-advertising,  cheap  and  ugly 
advertisements  frequently  sold  goods  just  as  well  or  better. 
And  today,  what  could  be  uglier  than  the  inane,  story-in- 
pictures  advertisements  which  sell  Lux,  Fleischmann's  Yeast, 
Lifebuoy  Soap,  and  other  products  with  demonstrated  ef- 

There  is,  of  course,  a  recognized  and  demonstrated  com- 
mercial justification  for  using  expensive  "art"  and  expensive 
typography  in  the  advertising  of  certain  luxury  products 
such  as  perfumes,  de  luxe  motor  cars  and  the  like.  The  prin- 
ciple is  that  of  "conspicuous  waste,"  used  to  create  an  am- 
bience, a  prestige  for  the  product,  which  will  lift  it  above 
the  rational  level  of  pride  competition.  The  familiar  snob 
appeal,  applied  to  such  prosaic  commodities  as  fifteen-cent 
cigarettes  and  twenty-five-cent  collars,  also  accounts  for  a 
good  deal  of  conspicuous  expenditure  in  advertising  "art," 
and  up  to  a  certain  point,  this  is  commercially  justifiable.  Yet 
it  remains  true,  as  many  hard-boiled  professionals  have  pointed 
out,  that  beauty  has  been  permitted  to  run  hog-wild  in  con- 
temporary advertising  practice.  Carroll  Rheinstrom,  Adver- 
tising Manager  of  Liberty,  was  recently  quoted  in  Advertis- 
ing and  Selling  as  believing  that  90%  of  current  advertising 
is  waste  because  of  the  ad-man's  pre-occupation  with  his  own 
techniques,  to  the  exclusion  of  practical  economic  considera- 


No,  the  logical  economic  explanations  don't  make  sense. 
Advertising  today,  while  anything  but  efficient,  is  far  bet- 
ter designed  and  written  than  it  needs  to  be;  obviously  it 
costs  far,  far  more  to  produce  than  it  ought  to  cost.  Part 
of  the  explanation,  I  think,  lies  in  a  private  impurity  of  the 
advertising  craftsman;  he  is  more  interested  in  beauty  than 
he  is  in  selling.  For  him  the  advertisement  is  a  thing-in-itself . 
Highly  developed  craftsmanship  in  the  graphic  arts  and  in 
writing,  enormous  expenditures  of  mechanical  skill,  are  de- 
posited at  the  shrine  not  of  Mammon  but  of  Beauty.  And  all 
pretty  much  in  vain.  The  art  isn't  really  art.  The  writing 
isn't  really  writing.  And  frequently  the  worst  "art"  and  the 
worst  "writing"  sell  products  better  than  the  best  art  and 
the  best  writing. 

Yes,  the  explanation  of  this  curious  phenomenon  may  well 
be  that  advertising,  since  it  doesn't  make  sense  in  economic, 
social  or  human  terms,  jumps  right  through  the  Looking- 
Glass  and  becomes  a  thing-in-itself! 

It  takes  a  nai've  eye  to  see  this.  I  had  to  have  it  pointed  out 
to  me  by  a  poet  friend  who  makes  his  living  writing  prose 
for  a  very  expensive  magazine.  He  picked  up  a  copy  of  the 
publication  and  pointed  to  a  Camel  cigarette  advertisement 
in  color.  How  much  did  that  cost,  he  asked?  I  estimated  rap- 
idly: $  1,000  for  the  drawing,  add  $200  for  the  time  of  the 
art  director  and  an  assistant,  $400  for  the  color  plates,  $100 
for  typography,  $100  more  for  miscellaneous  mechanical 
charges,  $100  for  copy,  $300  pro-rated  for  executive  and 
management  charges.  Total  for  one  advertisement,  not  count- 
ing the  cost  of  the  space,  about  $2,300. 

"Well,"  commented  my  poet  friend,  "that's  the  end-result, 
isn't  it?  That's  why  Kentucky  planters  go  bankrupt  growing 
tobacco,  why  negro  and  white  share  croppers  sweat,  starve 
and  revolt,  why  millions  of  men  and  women  diligently  smoke 
billions  of  cigarettes — all  so  that  this  magnificent  advertise- 
ment might  be  born  and  live  its  little  hour." 


My  friend  was  treating  himself  to  a  little  poetic  license,  of 
course.  But  the  more  I  stared  at  the  phenomenon,  the  more  I 
became  convinced  that  it  made  just  as  much  sense  upside 
down  as  right  side  up.  And  the  more  I  reflected  upon  the 
role  of  the  "creative  worker"  in  advertising,  the  more  I  came 
to  suspect  skullduggery  of  an  obscure,  unconscious  sort.  Os- 
tensibly these  craftsmen  are  employed  to  write  words  and 
draw  lines  that  will  persuade  their  fellow  man  to  buy  certain 
branded  cigarettes,  soaps,  toothpastes,  gadgets,  etc.  But  do 
these  fellows  really  give  a  whoop  about  these  gadgets  and 
gargles  or  whether  people  buy  them  or  not?  Did  I,  when  I 
was  a  member  in  good  standing  of  the  profession? 

Never  a  whoop  nor  a  whisper.  What  I  cared  about  was  my 
craft,  and  that  is  what  every  genuine  craftsman  cares  about 
— that  and  nothing  else.  Each  piece  of  copy  was  a  thing-in- 
itself.  I  did  a  workmanlike  job,  not  for  dear  old  Heinz,  or 
Himmelschlussel,  or  Rockefeller,  or  whomsoever  I  was  serv- 
ing indirectly,  but  for  myself;  because  it  was  pleasant  to  do 
a  competent  job  and  unpleasant  to  do  a  slovenly  job.  I  was 
aware,  of  course,  that  Mr.  Rockefeller,  via  the  agency,  was 
paying  me,  and  I  tried  not  to  get  fired.  But  I  never  worried 
about  my  duty  to  Mr.  Rockefeller  and  to  his  oils  and  gad- 
gets. The  prospect,  the  customer?  I  was  a  bit  sorry  for  the 
customer,  and  tried  to  let  him  off  with  as  little  bamboozle- 
ment  as  possible.  But  my  real  loyalty  was  to  the  Word,  to 
the  materials  of  my  craft.  Loyalty  to  the  Word — writing  a 
competent  advertisement — sometimes  meant  being  pretty 
rough  and  mendacious  with  the  customer.  I  couldn't  help 
that.  I  was  carried  away  by  the  fury  of  composition,  just  as 
a  good  Turkish  swordsman  becomes  carried  away  in  his  pro- 
fessional dealings  with  the  Armenians. 

But  chiefly,  I  think,  my  indomitable  instinct  of  workman- 
ship was  hard  on  my  employer.  Unconsciously  I  sabotaged 
his  interests  continuously.  I  wrote  clean,  lucid  prose,  when 
the  illiterate  screed  that  the  advertiser  wanted  to  print  would 


probably  have  sold  more  goods.  When  my  immediate  su- 
perior plaintively  objected  that  what  I  wrote  was  too  good 
for  the  audience  to  which  it  was  addressed,  I  was  indignant 
and  recalcitrant.  Ordered  to  rewrite  the  advertisement,  I 
seized  the  opportunity  to  bring  it  closer  to  my  standard  of 
craftsmanship,  which  had  nothing  to  do  with  commerce.  If 
the  client  objected,  I  bullied  him  if  possible,  and  otherwise 
made  a  minimum  of  grudging  concessions. 

A  percentage  of  the  copy  writers  in  advertising  agencies 
are  craftsmen.  I  have  known  scores  of  them.  They  felt  as  I 
felt,  and  consciously  or  unconsciously,  they  did  what  I  did. 
The  artists  were  even  more  obsessed  and  obstreperous.  As  I 
knew  them,  their  disinterestedness  in  the  profits  of  Mr.  Rocke- 
feller was  extreme.  They  were  interested  in  drawing  pretty 
pictures.  They  drew  them  as  well  as  they  could,  regardless  of 
whom  and  of  what?  Regardless  of  the  advertiser  and  what 
he  had  asked  them  to  draw.  Naturally,  the  picture  had  to 
convey  a  sales  message,  and  they  chattered  a  great  deal  about 
"putting  a  selling  punch"  into  their  pictures.  But  I  noticed 
that  the  best  of  them  became  so  interested  in  the  design 
and  the  drawing  that  they  frequently  left  no  room  for 
the  copy  or  even  for  the  trade-mark  of  the  manufacturer. 
(This  last  I  suspect  was  a  trick  of  the  Freudian  unconscious; 
the  trade-mark  was  resented  because  it  was  the  signature  of 
the  advertiser.)  When  account  executives  and  advertisers  re- 
pined at  such  extravagant  oblations  at  the  shrine  of  Beauty, 
the  artists  were  haughtier  even  than  the  copy  writers.  And 
since  the  average  American  business  man  has  a  puzzled  and 
diffident  reverence  for  art,  coupled  with  an  enormous  igno- 
rance of  the  nature  of  artists,  their  motivations  and  tech- 
niques, these  so-called  "commercial"  artists  did  then  and  still 
do  get  away  with  an  astonishing  amount  of  sheer  mayhem  and 
murder.  The  writers,  too,  though  to  a  less  degree,  because  most 
advertisers  can  read  and  write.  The  technique  is  less  strange 
and  the  technician  correspondingly  less  formidable.  All  ac- 


count  executives  in  agencies,  and  worse  still,  all  advertisers, 
have  an  obscene  itch  to  write  themselves.  Consequently  the 
copy  writer  must  sternly  and  vigilantly  keep  these  vulgarians 
in  their  places.  I  always  considered  it  to  be  my  duty  to  stand 
on  my  dignity  as  a  "genius" — the  word  still  goes  big  in  the 
world  of  commerce,  especially  on  the  West  Coast — and  epater 
these  bourgeois,  partly  as  a  matter  of  self-respect,  and  partly 
as  a  practical  measure  of  professional  and  personal  aggrandize- 

Commercial  artists  and  writers  indeed!  Art  for  art's  sake 
was  our  motto,  and  to  hell  with  the  advertiser.  I  can  remem- 
ber not  one,  but  half  a  dozen  times  when  an  advertisement 
was  written,  illustrated,  set  up  in  exquisite  type,  and  de- 
posited in  proof  form  on  the  account  executive's  desk  almost 
ninety-nine  and  three-quarters  per  cent  pure.  True,  the  text 
had  more  or  less  to  do  with  the  product  which  we  were  sup- 
posed to  be  advertising,  but  the  advertiser's  "message"  was 
merely  a  point  of  departure  for  the  copy  writer's  lovingly 
executed  exercise  in  pure  design,  and  the  typography  was  a 
study  in  black  on  white  which  made  no  concessions  whatever 
to  readability.  The  advertiser's  trade-mark  and  signature  were 
either  carefully  concealed  or  left  out  entirely.  Usually,  of 
course,  these  pure  triumphs,  these  pious  oblations  at  the  shrine 
of  Beauty,  caused  the  account  executive  to  yell  bloody  mur- 
der. He  was  right  and  we  knew  he  was  right.  We  had  gone 
too  far.  We  would  therefore  execute  a  careful  retreat  from 
such  tactical  excesses,  grumbling  dourly  for  the  sake  of  the 
record  that  the  account  executive  was  obviously  an  ignoramus, 
and  that  his  precious  client  was  a  misbegotten  idiot  whom  we 
would  like  to  kill  and  stuff  with  his  own  Cheery  Oats,  or 
whatever  it  was  he  sold;  that,  however,  as  loyal  employees  of 
dear  old  Kidder,  Bidder  &  Bunkstein  we  would  gladly  give 
him  what  he  wanted  and  hoped  it  choked  him. 

We  never  did,  of  course,  for  that  would  have  been  to  con- 
cede too  much.  So  that  the  client  was  kept  in  a  constant, 


salutary  state  of  baffled  rage,  alarm  and  hope;  and  every  now 
and  then  an  unhappy  account  executive  would  have  a 
nervous  breakdown.  We  never  had  nervous  breakdowns. 

Does  this  seem  exaggerated?  But  how  can  the  honest  chron- 
icler record  fantasy  except  in  the  terms  of  fantasy?  And  the 
vast  accumulation  of  advertising  during  the  post-war  decade 
was  fantastic  in  the  extreme.  It  is  still  fantastic.  Look  at  it 
in  the  pages  of  any  commercial  magazine.  Does  it  make 
sense  in  terms  of  the  sober,  profit -motivated  business  that 
advertising  is  supposed  to  be?  Recently  the  investigators  of 
the  Psychological  Corporation  discovered  that  the  variation 
as  between  advertisements  of  lowest  and  highest  effectiveness 
runs  as  high  as  1,000  per  cent.  An  automobile  assembly  line 
is  considered  poor  if  it  permits  a  quality  variation  of  more 
than  30  per  cent.  Is  it  sensible  to  believe  that  a  production 
technique  which  frequently  shows  3,000  per  cent  variation 
in  the  quality  of  the  product  is  really  aimed  at  its  avowed 
objective,  namely  the  sale  of  products  and  services  to  cus- 
tomers? Well,  if  I  were  out  duck  shooting  and  missed  my 
duck  by  i  ,000  per  cent,  I  should  consider  it  open  to  question 
whether  or  not  I  was  really  trying  to  hit  that  duck. 

No.  To  understand  this  phenomenon  we  must  employ  a 
far  subtler  analysis,  giving  all  the  factors  their  due  weight, 
no  matter  how  fantastic  these  factors  are,  and  no  matter  how 
seemingly  irrational  the  conclusion  to  which  we  are  led. 

Again,  Veblen  furnishes  us  with  the  essential  clue.  In  the 
Theory  of  Business  Enterprise  and  elsewhere  in  the  whole 
body  of  his  work,  Veblen  notes  that  advertising  is  one  element 
of  the  "conscientious  sabotage"  by  which  business  keeps  the 
endlessly  procreative  force  of  science-in-industry  from  break- 
ing the  chains  of  the  profit  system.  In  this  view  the  business 
man  figures  as  an  art-for-art's-saker.  His  art  is  the  making 
of  money,  which  has  nothing  to  do  with  the  use  of  the  pro- 
ductive forces  by  which  a  society  gains  its  livelihood.  The  art 
of  making  money  is  perhaps  the  purest,  the  most  irrational 


art  we  know,  and  its  practitioners  are  utterly  intransigent. 
Today  these  artists  in  money  making  are  prepared  to  starve 
millions  of  people,  to  plunge  the  planet  in  war,  to  destroy 
civilization  itself  rather  than  compromise  the  purity  of  their 

Veblen  saw  all  this  clearly,  and  Stuart  Chase  has  employed 
the  Veblenian  apposition  of  business  and  industry  in  a  se- 
quence of  useful  books.  But  one  might  well  go  further  and 
assert  that  the  contradictions  of  capitalism  persist  even  within 
the  mental  gears  and  pistons  of  its  exploitative  functionaries. 

Business  sabotages  industry  by  means  of  advertising.  True. 
But  we,  as  advertising  craftsmen,  consciously  or  unconsciously 
motivated  not  by  a  desire  to  make  money  but  by  an  obsessed 
delight  in  the  materials  of  our  craft — we  in  turn  sabotaged 
advertising.  We  were  and  are  parasites  and  unconscious  sabo- 
teurs. During  the  whole  postwar  decade  we  gathered  strength, 
inflated  our  prestige,  consolidated  our  power.  More  and  more 
the  "creative  worker"  became  the  dominant  force  in  agency 
practice,  and  advertising  consequently  became  more  and  more 
"pure."  The  shrine  of  Beauty  was  buried  under  the  fruits  and 
flowers  placed  there  by  devout  artists  and  writers  in  adver- 
tising. We  were  no  humble  starvelings.  We  caused  the  salaries 
and  fees  paid  advertising  artists  and  artists  to  become  no- 
torious. Even  I,  who  was  always  more  or  less  aware  of  what 
I  was  doing,  and  who  was  indifferent  to  money  for  its  own 
sake — even  I,  without  particularly  trying,  because  I  never 
could  keep  more  than  a  fraction  of  my  mind  concentrated 
on  the  absurd  business,  managed  to  triple  my  salary  dur- 
ing the  postwar  decade.  Agency  production  costs  hit  the  ceil- 
ing, broke  through  and  sailed  off  into  the  empyrean.  We 
developed  an  esthetic  of  advertising  art  and  copy,  a  philosophy, 
a  variety  of  equally  fantastic  creeds — a  whole  rich  literature 
of  rationalization  which  should  interest  the  psychiatrists 
greatly  if  they  ever  get  around  to  examining  it. 

I  say  "we"  with  poetic  license.  I  speak  for  the  profession, 


but  I  speak  out  of  turn,  and  I  shall  doubtless  be  roundly 
repudiated  and  contemned  by  the  menagerie  of  Cheshire 
Cats,  March  Hares,  Mad  Hatters  and  Red  Queens  who  still 
roam  the  scant  pastures  on  the  other  side,  the  right  side  of 
the  Advertising  Looking-Glass.  As  a  matter  of  fact  I  con- 
tributed nothing  to  this  literature  of  rationalization.  I  was 
too  busy  making  a  living,  trying  to  keep  sane  and  do  a  little 
serious  work  on  the  side,  and  wondering  just  how  soon  that 
beautiful  iridescent  bubble  would  break,  leaving  us  "creative 
workers"  with  nothing  much  in  our  hands  and  a  lot  of  soap 
in  our  eyes. 

It  broke.  Came  Black  Thursday,  and  a  chill  wind  blew 
through  the  advertising  rookeries  of  the  Grand  Central  Dis- 
trict. Advertising  appropriations  were  cut.  That  exquisite 
First  Article  of  the  Ad-Man's  Credo:  "When  business  is  good 
it  pays  to  advertise;  when  business  is  bad  you've  got  to  ad- 
vertise," was  invoked  with  less  and  less  effect.  As  the  months 
and  years  passed  the  whole  structure  of  the  industry  began  to 
sideslip  and  sway.  And  advertising  became  less  pure.  That 
beautiful,  haughty  odalisque  had  to  hustle  down  into  the 
market  place  and  drag  in  the  customers.  She  had  to  speak  of 
price.  She  became  dowdy  and  blatant  and  vulgar.  The  primi- 
tive techniques  of  Hogarth  in  the  eighteenth  cenlury  were 
resurrected  via  the  tabloids,  and  the  moronic  sales  talk  issued 
in  ugly  balloons  from  the  mouths  of  ugly  moronic  figures. 
Photography  was  cheaper  than  drawings  and  worked  as  well 
or  better.  Testimonials  were  cheap  and  worked  best  of  all. 

Desperately,  advertising  began  to  step  out  of  its  part  and 
tell  the  truth  a  little.  The  customer  got  an  occasional  break. 
But  advertising  lost  her  name,  the  poor  girl.  And  it  got  worse. 
Every  time  car  loadings  hit  a  new  low,  another  big  advertiser 
would  go  buckeye  with  testimonials  and  other  loathsome 
practices,  and  she  would  lose  her  name  again.  Alarmed,  the 
reformers  of  advertising  started  another  vice  crusade,  and 
their  activities  will  be  described  elsewhere.  They  haven't  ac- 


complished  much,  despite  General  Johnson's  benediction  pro- 
nounced on  the  "good"  advertising  that  will  be  needed  more 
and  more  under  the  New  Deal.  Their  voices  become  ever 
fainter  and  more  faint. 

Quite  evidently  the  religion  of  Beauty-in-Advertising  has 
entered  upon  a  period  of  decadence.  The  advertisers,  being 
only  one  jump  ahead  of  the  sheriff,  or  more  often  two  jumps 
behind,  are  obliged  to  cut  each  other's  throats  without  bene- 
fit of  Beauty.  In  fact  many  of  them,  having  learned  wisdom 
from  the  tabloids,  are  openly  blasphemous  and  vengeful  with 
respect  to  the  art-for-art's-sakers.  Pursued  by  their  unfor- 
giving maledictions,  the  Priests  of  Beauty  have  fled  to  Majorca 
or  Vermont,  where  they  nurse  their  wounds  and  wait.  Not 
all  of  them,  however.  In  1932  and  1933,  a  few  stalwarts  at- 
tempted a  counter-offensive  against  the  sansculottes  who  had 
laid  waste  the  pleasant  fields  of  advertising.  The  more  or 
less  recognized  leader  of  this  gallant  Lacedemonian  band  is 
Mr.  Rene  Clarke,  President  of  the  firm  of  Calkins  &  Holden, 
Inc.,  one  of  the  oldest,  most  ethical,  and  most  respected  adver- 
tising agencies  in  America.  Mr.  Clarke  is  a  genuinely  gifted 
designer  whose  worship  of  Beauty  is  without  flaw  or  com- 
promise. Among  his  many  triumphs  is  that  of  so  glorifying 
Wesson  Oil  that  millions  of  American  housewives  consume 
tons  of  it,  under  the  impression,  doubtless,  that  it  is  a  kind  of 

When  the  evil  days  came,  Mr.  Clarke  had  no  pleasure  in 
them,  and  no  sympathy  for  the  panic-stricken  advertisers 
who  with  more  or  less  success  were  trying  to  lift  them- 
selves out  of  the  spreading  sea  of  red  ink  by  the  balloon  tech- 
nique borrowed  from  the  tabloids.  Hence,  after  the  slaughter 
of  the  morons  had  proceeded  without  benefit  of  Beauty  for 
three  depression  years,  Mr.  Clarke,  in  1932,  published  in 
Advertising  and  Selling  the  pronunciamento  which  is  here 
quoted  in  full: 



Bring  me  Idealism:  I'm  tired  of  things  that  look  like  things  as 
they  are.  Have  you  buried  your  hearts  like  pots  of  gold  in  the 
earth?  You  who  are  entrusted  with  the  responsibility  of  showing 
others  what  they  cannot  see  for  themselves.  If  your  eyes  see  only 
what  is  seen  by  others,  from  where  will  the  vision  come?  You  who 
have  been  so  disdainful  of  the  ordinary,  will  you  stand  aside  now 
and  let  the  ordinary  lead  you  back  to  the  paths  that  stretch  up  to 
the  heights? 

You  claimed  to  be  the  leaders,  the  gifted,  sensitive  few,  who  dis- 
cerned and  brought  into  being  the  beauty  that  is  truth.  The  quality 
of  leadership  is  tested  by  adversity.  Because  we  have  adversity,  do 
you  renounce  your  leadership  and  hoard  your  visions  against  that 
time  when  some  one  else  has  made  a  market  for  your  talent? 

Is  your  sense  of  beauty  so  delicate  that  it  cannot  be  exposed  to 
the  frost?  Will  you  come  out  again  like  house  flies  at  the  first 
warm  touch  of  prosperity's  spring? 

Bring  me  Courage:  I'm  tired  of  conformity  that  hides  behind 
the  general  use.  It  is  indeed  a  low  level  that  parallels  the  taste  of 
the  throng.  If  we  all  conform,  wherein  will  the  crowd  find  guid- 
ance away  from  the  common  level?  You  say  it  narrows  your  mar- 
ket. Nothing  of  worth  has  been  created  with  one  eye  on  one's 
market.  One  needs  both  eyes  and  yet  more  to  see  into  one's  heart, 
and  it  is  from  there  that  truth  is  born. 

Courage  walks  alone,  even  in  the  market  places.  The  crowd  must 
follow  where  the  trail  is  blazed.  Look  at  your  idols.  Did  they  hesi- 
tate because  no  one  had  been  that  way  before?  Did  they  wait  for 
acceptance  before  they  advertised  their  principles? 

Bring  me  Imagination:  I'm  tired  of  today  and  want  to  see  to- 

I  need  an  image,  not  of  what  I  am,  but  of  what  I  hope  to  be.  Put 
away  the  mirror;  set  up  the  telescope.  Was  it  not  yesterday  you 
boasted  that  your  souls  had  wings,  that  you  could  penetrate  rare 
atmospheres  where  the  rest  of  us  could  not  exist?  Fly  now,  and 
bring  us  down  a  measure  of  that  ozone. 

Bring  us  back  from  those  excursions  of  the  mind,  which  are  the 
responsibility  of  your  guild,  a  portion  of  wine  to  wash  down  our 


dry  daily  fare — wine  from  the  vineyards  of  romance  and  imagina- 

If  you  bring  us  only  bread,  you  become  mere  housewives  serving 
the  needs  of  the  body,  and  we  recede  step  by  step  from  that 
estate  which  breeds  the  very  license  of  your  occupation. 

Have  you  no  contacts  with  the  gods  that  you  only  recite  the 
conversations  of  the  world?  What  binds  you  to  this  circling  round 
and  round?  Can  you  not  stretch  your  tether  ever  so  little  that  the 
next  circle  would  be  trod  on  untrampled  ground? 

Do  you  listen  to  those  who  counsel  return  to  something  which 
we  had  but  have  lost.  That  is  the  creed  of  those  who  lack  imagina- 
tion or  courage  and  the  refuge  of  those  without  plan.  What  we  had 
we  have  not  now.  It  belongs  to  yesterday,  not  today  nor  tomorrow. 
Others  may  lean  on  and  borrow  from  the  past,  but  you  may  not. 
Yours  is  the  responsibility  to  create  the  new,  the  fresh,  the  vital 
vision  of  tomorrow,  what  we  hope  to  be. 

Obviously  Mr.  Clarke  has  gone  dada,  and  I  trust  no  person 
in  this  audience  will  be  so  ungracious  as  to  ask  what  he  is 
talking  about.  In  the  old  days,  when,  in  the  heat  of  copy  and 
art  conferences,  advertisers  voiced  such  impertinent  ques- 
tions, we  always  boxed  their  ears  and  told  them  to  mind 
their  own  business,  if  any.  Often  there  was  little  enough  by 
the  time  we  got  through  with  them. 

I  regard  Mr.  Clarke's  manifesto  as  a  classic  of  its  kind,  and 
not  without  its  historic  interest;  for  Mr.  Clarke  himself  is 
perhaps  the  last  of  the  art-for-art's-sakers  in  advertising. 
His  manifesto  is  illustrated  by  a  most  artistic  photographic 
study  of  the  artist  himself,  standing  with  one  hand  resting  on 
his  hip,  the  other  hand  lifted  and  placed  upon  a  pillar  of 
the  temple  of  advertising,  the  clear,  unsubdued  eyes  gazing 
into  the  distance.  The  pose  is  suggestive,  even  ominous.  What 
does  this  Samson  of  Art-in-Advertising  mean  to  do?  Shorn 
of  his  prestige,  will  he  gird  his  loins  once  more,  and  bring  the 
whole  temple  roaring  down  upon  the  heads  of  the  Philis- 
tines? It  would  be  a  fitting  end. 


Let  us  turn  now  to  a  consideration  of  the  primary  phase 
of  the  Ad-Man's  worship  of  Beauty:  the  manufacture  by 
advertising  of  successive  exploitable  concepts  of  feminine 
beauty,  of  beauty  in  clothes,  houses,  furniture,  automobiles, 
kitchens,  everything.  One  notes  three  major  points:  first,  that 
these  concepts  must  be  as  rapidly  obsolescent  as  possible;  sec- 
ond, that  the  connotation  of  beauty  with  expensiveness  is 
rigorously  enforced;  third,  that  beauty  is  conceived  of  as 
functional  with  respect  to  profitable  sales,  rather  than  with 
respect  to  satisfying  beautifully  and  economically  the  living 
and  working  needs  of  the  population. 

Most  exploitation  of  the  idea  of  beauty  reduces  in  practi- 
cal terms  to  a  promotion  of  sales  and  profits  through  the 
fostering  of  obsolescence.  This  is  most  apparent  in  the  field  of 
women's  fashions.  Here  the  exploitative  apparatus  includes 
not  only  advertising  in  the  narrow  sense  of  the  word,  but 
also  the  editorial  propaganda  of  the  style  magazines,  plus  a 
more  or  less  collusive  hook-up  with  the  rotogravure  supple- 
ments of  the  newspapers,  with  stage  and  motion  picture 
actresses,  and  with  Junior  League  debutantes.  This  complex 
promotion  apparatus  is  utilized  to  achieve,  first,  the  funda- 
mentally false  identification  of  beauty  and  fashion.  The  ac- 
celeration of  fashion  changes  during  the  postwar  period  is  an 
index  of  the  textile  industry's  rapid  emergence  into  the  "sur- 
plus economy"  phase  of  capitalism,  with  its  entailed  crisis. 
The  life-span  of  a  successful  style  was  roughly  about  a  year 
in  1920.  Today,  according  to  the  testimony  of  well-known 
stylists,  this  life-span  has  dropped  to  less  than  six  months. 
The  mortality  of  the  candidates  for  fashion's  favor  has  corre- 
spondingly increased. 

Winifred  Raushenbush,  in  an  article  in  the  New  Freeman, 
described  the  dilemma  of  the  dress  manufacturer  who  knows 
that  nine  out  of  every  ten  designs  are  doomed  to  "take  a 
bath,"  to  use  the  trade  jargon.  This  mortality  is  about 
equally  high  throughout  the  fashion  industry,  whether  in  hats, 

dresses  or  cloaks,  and  whether  the  manufacturer  is  serving 
the  high,  medium  or  low  style  markets.  Snobbism  is,  of 
course,  the  major  instrument  of  the  promotion  technique. 
The  exquisite  hauteur  with  which  both  the  advertisers  in 
Vogue  and  the  editor  of  Vogue  lecture  their  nouveaux  riche 
readers  is  matched  only  by  the  slightly  burlesqued  imitation 
of  this  manner  to  which  indigent  stenographers  are  subjected 
when  they  look  for  bargains  on  Fourteenth  Street.  The  dif- 
fusion of  a  fashion  change,  both  as  to  geography,  and  as  be- 
tween the  high,  medium  and  low  style  levels  has  become 
almost  instantaneous.  Emulative  pressures  are  invoked  all 
down  the  line.  Women  dress  today  not  merely  for  men,  but 
for  women  as  a  form  of  social  competition.  So  potent  is  the 
style-terror  that  even  during  the  depression  the  majority  of 
women  would  rather  starve  than  risk  the  shame  of  non- 
conformity. They  save  and  scrimp,  skip  lunches,  buy  the 
latest  mode,  and  four  months  later  are  obliged  to  buy  again — 
this  time  an  "ensemble,"  so  that  the  manufacturers  of  hand- 
bags and  even  cosmetics  may  also  share  in  the  profits  of  style- 

Deterioration  of  function  fostered  by  advertising  is  espe- 
cially conspicuous  in  the  field  of  fashion.  Even  in  expensive 
high-style  apparel,  the  materials  tend  increasingly  to  be 
shoddy.  And  the  crowning  joke  is  that  for  about  fifty  per 
cent  of  American  women,  the  dress,  cloak  and  hat  manufac- 
turers do  not  produce,  do  not  even  attempt  to  produce, 
clothes  which  have  any  relation  to  the  physical  type  of  the 
women  who  are  asked  to  buy  them!  This,  at  least,  is  the 
testimony  of  Miss  Raushenbush  in  another  New  Freeman 
article  entitled  "15,000,000  Women  Can't  go  Nude."  They 
don't  go  nude,  of  course.  They  accept  the  ruthless  prescrip- 
tion of  the  current  fashion,  which  is  usually  appropriate  for 
the  young  flapper  type.  It  looks  and  fits  like  the  devil  on  the 
mature  woman,  the  short  woman,  the  tall  woman,  the  "hippy" 
woman.  There  are  at  least  five  major  feminine  types  of  these 



"forgotten  women"  the  existence  of  whom  the  fashion  indus- 
try has  barely  deigned  to  notice,  let  alone  serve  adequately. 

In  recent  years  the  attempt  has  been  made  to  extend  the 
sway  of  fashion,  /.  e.,  profit-motivated  obsolescence,  into 
every  conceivable  field  of  human  purchase  and  use.  Invariably 
this  fashion  offensive  wears  the  masque  of  beauty.  Almost 
invariably,  the  net  result  is  to  increase  the  tonnage  of  shoddy 
make-believe.  One  must  say  this  at  the  same  time  that  one 
acknowledges  in  fairness  that  the  industrial  designers  who 
have  both  promoted  and  profited  by  this  offensive,  have  tried 
to  introduce  some  slight  measure  of  the  substance  and  func- 
tion of  beauty,  and  in  some  cases  have  measurably  succeeded. 

The  motivation  of  this  crusade  is  acknowledged  in  the 
title  of  an  article  contributed  by  Earnest  Elmo  Calkins  to 
Advertising  and  Selling:  "The  Dividends  of  Beauty."  One 
readily  acknowledges  that  nothing,  whether  beautiful  or 
ugly,  can  be  made  under  a  profit  system  unless  it  does  pay 
dividends.  The  point  is  that  under  a  profit  system  both  the 
guiding  esthetic  and  its  expression  by  a  profit -motivated  in- 
dustry are  severely  limited  and  distorted,  so  that  the  net 
product  of  beauty  is  likely  to  be  meagre  indeed.  Says  Mr. 

The  place  of  art  in  industry  is  becoming  firmly  established.  A 
restaurant  arranges  common  vegetables  in  patterns  in  its  windows, 
taking  full  advantage  of  the  different  greens  of  peas,  asparagus, 
cauliflower  and  artichoke,  and  adds  eye-appeal  to  appetite  appeal. 
A  railroad  landscapes  its  stations  with  grass  plots  and  climbing  roses 
and  transforms  an  unsightly  utility  into  an  attractive  eye-catcher, 
builds  local  goodwill,  adds  an  esthetic  touch  to  mere  ordinary 
travel,  and  creates  a  new  sales  argument. 

Much  has  been  accomplished  in  this  new  field,  but  the  list  is  long 
of  manufactured  articles  waiting  for  that  beautifying  touch  which 
costs  but  little  and  adds  so  much  to  acceptance.  The  initial  shape 
and  color  of  most  machine-made  articles  are  ugly.  Why,  I  don't 
know.  Nature  does  not  err  that  way.  All  her  products  are  artistic 


and  harmonious  with  each  other.  Some  appeal  to  several  senses.  An 
ear  of  corn  is  pleasant  to  sight  and  touch.  .  .  .  Nothing  but  man 
with  his  filling  stations,  hot-dog  stands  and  automobile  cemeteries 
strikes  a  discordant  note.  ...  A  forest  grows  unhelped  and  is  for- 
ever beautiful.  A  town  grows  as  it  will  and  looks  like  hell  hit  with 
a  club.  Beauty  in  man-made  articles  must  be  the  result  of  conscious 
thinking.  .  .  . 

Mr.  Calkins,  a  veteran  of  the  advertising  profession,  admits 
that  he  doesn't  know  why  most  machine-made  articles  are 
ugly.  By  and  large,  the  writer  must  admit  a  similar  ignorance. 
The  glib  radical  answer  would  run  to  the  effect  that  it  is  not 
the  machine,  but  the  application  of  machine  technology  to  the 
making  of  profits  that  results  in  this  ugliness.  But  this  answer 
doesn't  cover  all  the  facts  by  any  means.  Some  machine-made 
articles,  even  some  machine-made  consumer's  goods,  made  for 
profit  and  sold  at  Woolworth's,  are  beautiful.  Many  hand- 
made articles  are  ugly — Elbert  Hubbard's  de  luxe  editions  for 
example,  and  much  of  the  present  flood  of  sweatshop  toys, 
china,  etc.,  coming  out  of  Japan  and  Germany;  also  the  neo- 
Mayan  design  in  pottery  and  textiles  which  results  when  the 
primitive  social-economic  pattern  of  a  Mexican  village  is  shat- 
tered and  the  native  craftsmen  are  Taylorized  by  a  capitalist 
entrepreneur.  Yet  the  burial  urns  and  other  art  objects  turned 
out  in  quantity  during  some  of  the  best  Chinese  periods, 
trade-marked,  and  exported  for  profit  to  Persia,  were  and  are 
extremely  beautiful.  Production  for  use  does  not  necessarily 
result  in  beauty,  nor  does  production  for  profit  necessarily 
result  in  ugliness.  Estheticians  and  sociologists  have  striven 
vainly  to  discover  the  rationale  of  beauty  in  the  social  con- 
text of  production,  sale  and  use.  The  best  that  the  writer  can 
offer  is  a  tentative  observation  to  the  effect  that  the  Ameri- 
can genius,  operating  under  the  conditions  of  modern  indus- 
trial capitalism  burns  brightest,  and  gives  the  largest  product 
of  beauty  in  the  field  of  producer's  goods :  the  machines  them- 


selves,  turbines,  electric  cranes,  modern  factory  architecture 
and  the  product  of  these  factories  for  strict  use  seen  in 
bridges,  viaducts,  etc.  On  the  other  hand  the  American  blind 
spot  is  in  the  field  of  economic  and  social  organization; 
hence  we  are  likely  to  find  that  a  machine  product,  designed 
for  sale  to  the  ultimate  consumer  usually,  though  not  always 
betrays  the  disorder,  the  insanity,  the  ugliness  of  our  decadent 
capitalist  economy  and  our  chaotic  distributive  system.  In 
general  I  think  it  may  be  said  that  where  the  salesman  and 
advertiser,  rather  than  the  craftsman  and  producer,  are  in 
the  saddle,  what  the  consumer  gets  is  likely  to  be  ugliness.  In 
a  fragmented  civilization  such  as  ours,  art  and  the  artist  tend 
to  be  tossed  off  to  the  periphery  of  a  system  which  no  longer 
is  organic.  Mr.  Calkins  would  like  to  bring  the  artist  back  to 
the  center  of  the  system,  where,  as  industrial  designer,  he 
can  contribute  "that  beautifying  which  costs  but  little  and 
adds  so  much  to  acceptance."  The  attempt  is  in  fact  being 
made  on  a  considerable  scale,  but  without  much  success,  and 
for  very  good  reasons. 

A  very  good  industrial  designer — there  are  a  number  of 
highly  talented  Americans  at  work  in  this  field — can  control 
some  but  not  all  of  the  factors  which  determine  whether  a 
product  is  to  be  beautiful  or  ugly.  He  can't  control  the  profit- 
motive  and  that  is  precisely  where  he  falls  down.  As  a  matter 
of  fact,  who  is  it  calls  in  the  industrial  designer?  The  adver- 
tising agency,  usually,  or  the  sales  manager  of  the  manu- 
facturer. Why  do  they  call  him  in?  To  make  the  product  a 
beautiful  object?  Incidentally,  perhaps,  but  primarily  to  make 
the  product  a  salable  object.  The  designer  hence  must  work 
not  as  an  artist,  but  as  a  showman,  a  salesman.  If  he  were 
working  as  an  artist,  he  would  make  the  form  of  the  object 
express  the  truth  of  its  function,  not  merely  in  mechanical 
but  also  in  economic  and  social  terms,  and  it  would  be  beauti- 
ful. But  his  is  perforce  a  one-dimensional  art.  Working  as  he 
must,  as  a  showman,  he  usually  gives  the  object  a  novel  flip 

of  line  or  color — he  "styles"  it  in  terms  of  the  showman,  not 
of  the  artist.  As  a  designer  he  finds  himself  frustrated  and 
stultified  by  the  false  and  anti-social  production  relationships 
which  condition  his  labor.  The  same  thing  is  true,  of  course, 
of  the  engineer,  the  educator,  the  doctor,  the  architect,  in- 
deed of  all  creative  workers  in  an  acquisitive  society.  Recently 
one  of  the  best  known  and  most  highly  paid  industrial  de- 
signers in  America  came  to  me  and  asked  what  chance  he 
would  have  of  doing  serious  work  in  Russia.  He  was  fed  up 
with  the  rootless  frivolities  that  sales  managers  had  asked  him 
to  turn  out. 

It  is  in  the  field  of  package  design  that  the  artist  has  great- 
est freedom  and  has  scored  his  maximum  of  seeming  successes. 
It  is  true  that  simple,  bold  lettering,  clear  colors  and  good 
design  produce  more  sightly  packages  and  that  customers  are 
attracted  by  such  packages.  It  is  also  true  that  these  packages 
are  likely  to  contain  the  same  overpriced,  overadvertised  and 
sub-standard  content  that  they  always  held.  This  package 
"beauty"  is  therefore  skin  deep,  and  its  creation  the  proper 
concern  of  business  men  and  commercial  dilettantes,  not  of 
artists  who  have  any  conception  of  the  social  function  of  art. 
If  these  packageers  had  any  such  conception  they  would  prob- 
ably feel  obliged  to  ask  first,  in  three  cases  out  of  five,  whether 
the  product  really  ought  to  be  packaged  at  all. 

It  occurs  to  me  that  in  discussing  the  role  of  the  craftsman 
in  advertising  I  may  have  given  the  impression  that  his  "con- 
scientious sabotage,"  his  interest  in  the  materials  of  the  craft 
rather  than  in  selling,  his  attempts  to  convert  advertising  into 
a  thing-in-itself,  represent  a  genuine  release  of  creative  ca- 
pacity. No  such  impression  was  intended.  If  any  genuine 
creation  goes  on  in  advertising  agencies  I  have  never  seen  it.  I 
have  seen  the  sort  of  thing  described:  the  crippled,  grotesque, 
make-believe  of  more  or  less  competent  craftsmen  who  played 
with  the  materials  of  their  craft  but  could  never  use  them 
systematically  for  any  creative  purpose.  By  and  large  there  is 


no  such  thing  as  art  in  advertising  any  more  than  there  is 
such  a  thing  as  an  advertising  literature. 

The  best  of  us,  certainly,  had  more  sense  than  to  make  any 
such  pretensions.  I  suppose  that  in  some  twelve  years  of 
advertising  practice  I  must  have  written  some  millions  of 
words  of  what  is  called  "advertising  copy,"  much  of  it  for 
very  eminent  and  respectable  advertisers.  It  was  all  anony- 
mous, thank  heaven,  and  I  shall  never  claim  a  line  of  it.  True, 
half-true  and  false,  the  advertiser  signed  it,  the  newspapers 
and  magazines  printed  it,  the  radio  announcer  blatted  it,  and 
the  wind  has  blown  it  away.  It  was  all  quite  without  any 
human  dignity  or  meaning,  let  alone  beauty,  and  it  cannot 
be  too  soon  forgotten. 

No,  we  knew  what  we  were.  On  the  door  of  the  art  de- 
partment of  an  agency  where  I  worked,  a  friend  of  mine,  one 
of  the  ablest  and  most  prolific  commercial  artists  in  the  busi- 
ness, once  tacked  a  sign.  It  read:  "Fetid  Hell-Hole  of  Lost 

There  are  many  hundreds  of  these  "fetid  hell-holes"  in  the 
major  cities  of  America.  The  inmates  are,  of  course,  dedicated 
to  beauty,  beauty  in  advertising.  Whether  they  knew  it  or  not 
they  are,  as  artists,  so  many  squeaking,  tortured  eunuchs.  The 
Sultans  of  business  pay  them  well  or  not  so  well.  They  have 
made  sure  that  they  do  not  fertilize  the  body  of  the  culture 
with  the  dangerous  seed  of  art. 





IN  TRACING  the  pattern  of  the  ad -man's  pseudoculture, 
we  come  next  to  the  concept  of  love,  which  figures  as  an 
ingredient  in  most  of  the  coercions  of  fear  and  emulation  by 
which  the  ad-man's  rule  is  administered  and  enforced.  The 
theory  and  practice  of  this  rule  are  clearly  indicated  in  the 
title  of  a  comparatively  recent  advertising  text  book  by  Mr. 
Kenneth  M.  Goode:  Haw  to  Turn  People  into  Gold.  As  a  prac- 
ticing alchemist  in  his  own  right  and  also  as  an  agent  of  that 
purest  of  art-for-art's-sake  gold-diggers,  the  business  man, 
the  ad-man  treats  love  pragmatically,  using  every  device  to 
extract  pecuniary  gain  from  the  love  dilemmas  of  the  popula- 
tion. The  raw  ore  of  human  need,  desire  and  dream  is  carefully 
washed  and  filtered  to  eliminate  all  impurities  of  intelligence, 
will  and  self-respect,  so  that  a  deposit  of  pure  gold  may  be 
precipitated  into  the  pockets  of  the  advertiser. 

The  enterprise  of  turning  people,  with  their  normal  sexual 
desires  and  human  affections,  into  gold,  is  greatly  helped  by 
the  fact  that  our  Puritan  cultural  heritage  is  peculiarly  rich 
in  the  psychopathology  of  sex.  This  social  condition  is  in 
itself  highly  exploitable,  but  it  is  not  enough.  The  ad-man 
is  in  duty  bound  not  merely  to  exploit  the  mores  as  he  finds 
them,  but  further  to  pervert  and  debauch  the  emotional  life 
of  our  literate  masses  and  classes.  He  must  not  merely  sell 
love-customers;  he  must  also  create  love-customers,  for,  as 


we  have  seen,  the  advertising  profession  is  nothing  if  not 

The  dominance  of  the  love  appeal  in  contemporary  adver- 
tising must  be  apparent  to  every  reader  of  our  mass  and 
class  magazines,  as  well  as  to  the  Great  Radio  Audience. 
Curiously  enough,  it  would  appear  that  the  so-called  "higher" 
manifestations  of  sex — its  moral,  ethical,  spiritual  and  roman- 
tic derivatives  and  sublimations,  the  domestic  affections  and 
loyalties  of  husbands  and  wives,  and  of  parents  and  children, 
are  more  exploitable  than  the  grosser  sexual  appetites.  Love 
rules  the  world,  and  the  greatest  triumph  of  modern  adver- 
tising is  the  discovery  that  people  may  be  induced  to  turn 
themselves  into  gold  simply  by  a  forthright  appeal  to  their 
better  natures,  as  a  kind  of  public  duty,  since  it  is  recognized 
in  all  civilized  communities  that  gold  is  more  beautiful  and 
more  valuable  than  people.  Today,  therefore,  many  of  our 
most  successful  advertisers  stand,  like  John  P.  Wintergreen 
in  "Of  Thee  I  Sing,"  squarely  upon  the  broad  platform  of 
Love,  and  when  their  campaigns  are  conducted  with  proper 
vigor,  skill  and  enthusiasm,  their  election  is  almost  automatic, 
as  in  the  Third  Reich.  This,  at  least,  is  the  contention  of  many 
eminent  members  of  the  advertising  profession. 

The  distinction  between  sacred  and  profane  love  is  difficult 
to  maintain,  and  is  in  fact  frequently  blurred  in  current  ad- 
vertising practice.  For  convenience  in  examining  the  evidence, 
perhaps  the  following  categories  will  serve: 

Sacred  Love.  The  affections  and  loyalties  of  husbands  and 
wives.  Maternal,  paternal  and  filial  affections.  Religious  and 
charitable  impulses.  Respect  for  the  dead.  Idealism  in  roman- 
tic love,  this  being  closely  related  to  the  concepts  of  chastity 
and  beauty. 

Profane  Love.  The  physical  intimacies  of  adolescents,  such 
as  kissing,  petting,  etc.  The  problem  created  by  sexual  desire 
on  the  part  of  both  the  married  and  the  unmarried,  as  com- 
plicated by  the  desire  not  to  have  children. 


Illustrative  material  in  both  categories  is  so  abundant  that 
the  specimens  cited  in  this  exposition  will  necessarily  fail  to 
include  many  of  the  most  distinguished  achievements  of  con- 
temporary advertising.  No  slight  is  intended,  and  any  reader 
who  wishes  to  do  so  can  easily  correct  the  balance  by  a  brief 
survey  of  the  advertising  pages  of  current  mass  and  class 

The  sanctity  of  marriage  is  a  major  item  in  the  Christian 
idealism  of  love.  I  quote  at  this  point  an  advertisement  by  the 
Cadillac  Motor  Company  which  exploits  this  idealism  with  all 
the  resources  of  modern  advertising  technique: 

I  DO 

It  may  have  been  but  a  decade  ago  ...  or  it  may  have  been  in 
the  beautiful  90*5  .  .  .  but  sometime,  somewhere,  a  young  man 
stood  in  the  soft  light  of  a  Junetime  morning  .  .  .  and  repeated  the 
words  ...  "I  do."  .  .  .  Since  that  time  he  has  fought,  without 
interruption,  for  the  place  in  the  world  he  wants  his  family  to 
occupy.  .  .  .  And  it  may  be  that,  out  of  the  struggle,  he  has  lost  a 
bit  of  the  sentiment  that  used  to  abide  in  his  heart  .  .  .  for  success 
is  a  jealous  master  and  exacts  great  servitude.  .  .  .  But  not  when 
the  Junetime  comes  .  .  .  and,  with  it,  that  anniversary  of  another 
June!  .  .  .  Then  the  work-a-day  world,  with  its  many  tasks,  is 
cast  abruptly  aside,  and  sentiment — pure  and  simple — rules  in  his 
heart  once  more.  .  .  .  And,  because  there  are  literally  thousands  of 
him,  doorbells  are  ringing  this  June  throughout  America  .  .  .  and 
smiling  boys  in  uniform  stand,  hats  in  hand,  with  the  proof  of 
remembrance.  .  .  .  And  along  with  the  beautiful  flowers,  and  the 
boxes  of  candy,  and  the  other  tokens  .  .  .  some  of  those  brides  of 
other  Junes  will  receive  the  titles  to  new  Cadillacs  .  .  .  and  for 
them  there  will  be  no  other  June  like  this — save  one  alone.  .  .  . 
There  is  a  Cadillac  dealer  in  your  community — long  practiced  in 
the  art  of  keeping  a  secret.  .  .  .  Why  not  go  see  him  today?  You 
can  trust  him  not  to  tell! 


Note  the  exquisite,  hesitant  style.  The  copy  writer  knows 
he  is  treading  on  sacred  ground.  Do  not  blame  him  for  using 
the  "three  dots"  device  invented  by  that  fleshly  Broadway 
columnist,  Walter  Winchell.  Rather,  one  should  admire  the 
catholicity  of  spirit  by  which  profane  techniques  are  con- 
verted to  sacred  uses.  Note  that  this  tender  message  to  fond 
husbands,  written  not  without  awareness  of  its  effect  upon 
wives,  focuses  upon  the  proof  that  he  has  remembered  his 
marriage  anniversary.  Ladies,  by  their  works  ye  shall  know 
them.  The  more  costly  the  proof  the  more  profound  the  sen- 
timent. On  that  remembered  June  she  got  a  husband.  This 
June  she  gets  a  Cadillac.  Clearly  the  one  was  a  means  to  the 
other.  Note  too  that  only  some  wives  will  get  Cadillacs, 
precious  both  in  themselves  and  as  emulative  symbols  in  the 
endless  race  to  keep  up  with  the  Joneses. 

In  the  original  advertisement  the  photograph  of  orange 
blossoms  was  reproduced  in  color.  Beauty,  sentiment,  tact, 
effrontery — by  means  of  these  reagents  the  advertising  al- 
chemist converts  the  pure  and  beautiful  devotion  of  husbands 
into  something  still  more  pure.  Gold.  Pure  gold. 

Advertisers  believe  enormously  in  children.  They  have  lav- 
ished immense  sums  upon  the  education  of  parents  in  matters 
of  infant  care  and  feeding,  the  prevention  of  disease,  etc. 
Much  of  that  education  is  sound  enough,  much  of  it  is  irre- 
sponsible and  misleading,  and  all  of  it,  of  course,  is  anything 
but  gratuitous.  I  have  before  me  an  advertisement  of  Cream 
of  Wheat  which  shows  the  familiar  scare  technique  used  in 
exploiting  parental  devotion.  The  headline,  "At  the  Foot  of 
My  Baby's  Crib  I  Made  a  SOLEMN  PROMISE"  is  melodra- 
matic even  as  to  typography.  What's  it  all  about?  The  baby 
in  the  fable  was  shifted  from  milk  to  solid  food — not  Cream 
of  Wheat — and  got  sick.  The  doctor,  who  judging  from  his 
photograph  might  well  be  a  retired  confidence  man,  tells 
the  parents  to  feed  the  baby  Cream  of  Wheat.  The  inference 
is  that  if  he'd  been  fed  Cream  of  Wheat  from  the  beginning, 


he  wouldn't  have  become  sick,  which  is  itself  an  impudent 
enough  non  sequitur.  Add  the  fact  that  semolina,  a  non- 
trade-marked  wheat  product  used  by  macaroni  manufactur- 
ers, is  in  the  writer's  experience  of  baby-feeding,  an  entirely 
satisfactory  equivalent  for  Cream  of  Wheat  costing  about  a 
third  as  much,  and  you  get  a  measure  of  the  advertiser's 
effrontery.  Compute  Cream  of  Wheat's  share  in  the  huge 
annual  levy  of  over-priced  and  de-natured  breakfast  cereals 
on  American  food  budgets,  and  you  get  a  measure  of  the 
advertiser's  service  to  the  American  Home  and  the  Ameri- 
can Kiddy.  The  writer  might  add,  merely  as  his  professional 
opinion,  that  without  advertising  the  breakfast  cereal  business 
would  wither  in  a  year,  with  very  considerable  benefit  to  the 
health  and  wealth  of  American  men,  women  and  children. 

Death.  It  is  probable  that  but  for  the  ineffable  mortician 
and  his  confederate,  the  casket-maker,  we  might  by  this  time 
have  modified,  in  the  direction  of  decency,  taste  and  economy, 
some  of  the  grotesque  burial  rites  that  we  inherit  from  our 
savage  ancestors.  But  no.  It  still  costs  a  tired,  poverty-stricken 
American  laborer  about  as  much  to  die  and  be  buried  as  it 
does  a  high-caste  Balinese,  and  the  accompanying  orgies  are, 
of  course,  infinitely  more  hideous.  It  is  scarcely  worth  it.  Read- 
ers interested  in  this  macabre  traffic  are  referred  to  the  study 
by  John  C.  Gebhardt  for  the  Russell  Sage  Foundation.  Adver- 
tising plays  its  part,  of  course,  and  the  appeal,  in  terms  of 
menacing  solemnity,  is  invariably  to  the  love  of  the  bereft 
ones  for  the  departed.  New  York  columnists  still  remember 
the  maggoty  eloquence  of  one  Dr.  Berthold  E.  Baer  in  behalf 
of  Campbell's  Funeral  Church,  under  such  headlines  as 
"Buried  with  her  Canary  Bird,"  "Skookum,"  etc.  This  series 
ran  in  New  York  newspapers  during  the  winter  of  1919-1920. 
The  current  advertising  of  the  National  Casket  Company  is 
scarcely  less  gruesome. 

'Romance.  When  we  enter  the  starry  fields  of  romance,  the 
advertising  lines  begin  to  blur,  and  we  can  never  be  sure 


whether  we  are  dealing  with  love  in  its  sacred  or  in  its  pro- 
fane aspects.  Of  one  thing,  however,  we  can  always  be  sure. 
We  are  in  the  field  of  sex  competition,  and  the  advertiser, 
with  his  varied  stock  of  cosmetics,  soaps,  gargles  and  deo- 
dorants, figures  as  Love's  Armourer;  also,  perhaps,  as 
schatchen;  also — well,  the  Elizabethans  had  a  word  for  it. 
The  advertiser's  sales  patter  runs  somewhat  as  follows:  "You 
want  a  lover.  Very  well,  gargle  with  Blisterine,  use  such  and 
such  soaps  and  cosmetics,  and  let  Cecilia  Bilson  teach  you  how 
to  be  charming  without  cost."  The  exploitation  of  love's 
young  dream  is  by  this  time  a  huge  industry  in  itself.  Re- 
cently, advertisers  of  such  remotely  serviceable  products  as 
radios  and  razor  blades  have  been  trying  to  muscle  in  on  it. 

Profane  Love.  When  we  come  to  the  "marriage  hygiene" — 
nee  "feminine  hygiene" — advertisers  it  becomes  clear  that  we 
are  dealing  with  the  physical  aspects  of  love.  Physical  love  is 
taboo  in  our  society  except  when  legalized  by  the  State;  taboo 
also,  if  one  were  to  take  our  various  and  tangled  State  and 
Federal  statutes  seriously  (which  practically  nobody  does) 
except  when  having  procreation  as  its  object.  The  debris  of 
the  law,  reflecting  as  it  does  our  obsolete  mores,  is  ridiculous 
enough — in  Connecticut,  for  example,  it  is  legal  for  a  drug 
store  to  sell  contraceptive  devices  but  illegal  for  a  man  or 
woman  to  use  them. 

Very  few  people  obey  the  law,  of  course.  Birth  control  is 
today  one  of  the  facts  of  American  life.  It  is  practiced,  or  at 
least  attempted  in  some  form,  almost  universally. 

But  the  laws  remain  on  the  statute  books.  The  shadow  of  the 
taboo  remains,  and  in  this  shadow  the  advertising  profession 
operates  what  is  probably  the  most  flourishing  racket  in 
America,  now  that  Capone  is  in  jail  and  prohibition  is  no 

In  the  files  of  Consumers'  Research  I  counted  leaflets  adver- 
tising some  fifty  different  antiseptics  and  other  contraceptive 
products,  and  in  the  files  of  the  National  Committee  on 

Maternal  Health,  some  hundred  and  fifty  more.  Neither 
organization  attempts  to  list  them  all;  the  total  probably  runs 
into  thousands.  Each  is  represented  either  directly  or  by  im- 
plication to  be  a  convenient,  safe  and  reliable  contraceptive. 
Meanwhile  the  gynecologists  of  the  world  have  been  search- 
ing for  precisely  such  a  thing  and  say  they  haven't  yet  found 
it.  Meanwhile,  the  leaders  of  the  English  Birth  Control 
movement,  in  despair,  are  demanding  the  legalization  of 
abortion,  and  of  sterilization  as  in  Russia.  Meanwhile  Margaret 
Sanger  and  her  lieutenants  in  the  American  Birth  Control 
movement  are  pointing  out  that  the  existing  legislation 
which  prohibits  the  dissemination  of  birth  control  informa- 
tion is  really  class  legislation.  Upper  and  middle-class  peo- 
ple whether  married  or  not  can  get  advice  from  their  doctors 
and  buy  contraceptives  at  drug  stores.  The  fifty  per  cent  of 
the  population  which  lives  at  or  below  a  subsistence  level 
can  afford  neither  doctors  nor  rubber  goods.  Only  a  few 
thousand  can  be  accommodated  by  the  present  capacity  of 
the  birth  control  clinics. 

But  gynecologists  are  merely  scientists  and  Mrs.  Sanger  is 
merely  the  gallant  and  indomitable  Mrs.  Sanger.  They 
scarcely  rank  with  Doctor  Sayle  Taylor,  LL.D.,  now, 
because  of  the  querulousness  of  the  American  Medical  Asso- 
ciation. As  the  "Voice  of  Experience,"  Doctor  Taylor  com- 
forts thousands  of  wounded  hearts  over  the  radio.  In  his 
personal  appearances  before  Men  Only  and  Women  Only  he 
details  the  mysteries  of  love  and  sells  little  booklets  full  of 
highly  dangerous  misinformation  and  not  lacking  the  address 
of  a  contraceptive  manufacturer. 

But  how  about  the  respectable  drug  houses  whose  annual 
"take"  from  the  contraceptive  racket  far  surpasses  that  of 
the  eloquent  "Doctor"? 

The  hired  ad-men  of  these  drug  houses  perform  miracles 
of  delicacy  in  conveying  to  the  magazine  readers  half-truths 
and  outright  deceptions. 


Take  Lysol,  for  example.  In  their  monumental  study  "The 
Control  of  Conception,"  Dr.  Robert  L.  Dickinson  and  Dr. 
Louise  Stevens  Bryant  say  flatly  that  Lysol  should  be  banned 
as  a  contraceptive.  Not  that  it  isn't  a  good  antiseptic.  It  is 
indeed,  a  powerful  antiseptic — too  powerful  to  be  used  for 
contraceptive  purposes  except  in  weak  solutions  which  the 
average  woman  can  scarcely  be  trusted  to  make  with  ac- 
curacy and  not  reliable  in  any  case.  Further,  the  clinical  evi- 
dence to  date  both  in  England  and  in  America,  indicates  that 
no  antiseptic  douche  is  at  all  dependable  as  a  contraceptive  in 
and  of  itself. 

In  the  earlier  stages  of  the  feminine  hygiene  campaigns, 
the  language  of  the  ad-men  was  full  of  euphemisms,  of  in- 
direction, of  tender  solicitude  for  the  sad-eyed  wives  pictured 
above  such  captions  as  "The  Very  Women  who  supposed  they 
knew,  are  grateful  for  these  enlightening  facts."  But  recently 
the  pressure  of  competition  has  speeded  up  the  style.  "Now 
it  Can  be  Told,"  they  declaim,  and  "Why  mince  words?" 

Some  of  them  don't;  for  example,  the  ad-man  for  Pariogen 
tablets,  who  writes  the  following  chaste  communication,  ad- 
dressed presumably  to  the  automobile  trade: 

"Pariogen  tablets  may  be  carried  anywhere  in  a  purse, 
making  hygienic  measures  possible  almost  anywhere,  no  other 
accessories  or  water  being  required." 

It  has  been  argued  that  birth  control  education  is  a  neces- 
sary social  job,  and  that  the  ad-men  are  doing  it.  The  answer 
to  that  is  that  they  are  doing  it  badly,  irresponsibly  and  ex- 
pensively, with  a  huge  by-product  of  abortion  and  other 
human  wreckage  and  suffering.  Thus  far  birth  control  has 
been  the  obsession  of  a  few  honest  crusaders  like  Mrs.  Sanger, 
Dr.  Dickinson,  and  Dr.  W.  J.  Robinson.  For  support,  it  has 
had  to  let  itself  be  made  the  plaything  of  philanthropic  social 
registerites,  and  say  "please"  to  an  organized  medical  pro- 
fession so  divided  in  its  counsels,  so  terrified  of  offending  the 
mores,  and  so  jealous  of  its  emoluments  that  it  has  dragged  on 

the  skirts  of  the  movement  rather  than  assume  the  courageous 
leadership  which  is  not  merely  its  right  but  its  obvious  duty. 
The  medical  societies  of  Michigan  and  Connecticut  are  nota- 
ble exceptions  to  this  judgment. 

Despite  such  handicaps,  the  labors  of  Mrs.  Sanger,  Dr. 
Dickinson  and  others,  aided  by  the  gradual  relaxation  of  the 
taboo  since  the  war,  have  achieved  the  following  major  re- 

1.  Some  144  clinics  functioning  in  43  States. 

2.  A  technique,  which  while  far  from  ideal  or  even  com- 
pletely reliable  is  successful  in  96  to  98  percentage  of  cases. 

3.  An   increasing  penetration   of   the    daily   and   periodical 
press  with  birth  control  propaganda.  (Except  for  one  or  two 
liberal  stations  with   negligible   audiences,    birth   control   is 
still  barred  from  the  air.) 

4.  Laboratory  and  clinical  research  at  Yale,  the  Universi- 
ties of  London  and  Edinburgh,  and  elsewhere,  which  may  at 
any  moment  yield  revolutionary  results.  Russia,  of  course, 
has  endowed  such  research  heavily  and  may  be  first  to  solve 
the  problem. 

5.  The  establishment  of  birth  control  courses  in  practically 
all  of  the  leading  medical  schools,  and  a  considerable  propa- 
gandizing of  the  profession  through  the  Birth  Control  Re- 
view which,  however,  was  discontinued  in  July,  1933. 

What  could  be  built  now,  on  the  foundations  laid  by  the 
devotion  of  these  pioneers?  The  answer  runs  in  terms  of 
economics,  politics  and  sociology.  A  birth  control  clinic  oper- 
ated on  a  fairly  large  scale,  such  as  the  Sanger  Clinic  in  New 
York,  can  provide  instruction,  equipment  and  clinical  follow- 
up  for  about  $5.00  per  year  per  patient.  Multiply  that  $5.00 
by  about  twenty  million  and  you  get  $100,000,000  a  year  as 
the  bill  for  a  publicly  administered  contraceptive  service  of 
approximate  adequacy.  Would  it  be  worth  $100,000,000?  Of 
course.  Will  anything  of  the  sort  be  done?  Probably  not. 
Why?  The  Pope  and  the  Propaganda  of  the  Faith,  which  still, 


to  paraphrase  Veblen,  "ignores  material  facts  with  magisterial 
detachment" — one  of  these  facts  being  that  wherever  birth 
control  clinics  have  been  opened  they  have  been  patronized 
by  Catholics  in  full  proportion  to  the  percentage  of  Catholics 
in  the  populations  served.  The  Fundamentalists  are  equally 
obstructive,  although  their  magazines  cheerfully  publish  con- 
traceptive advertising.  Alas,  of  course,  the  big  drug  houses, 
which  doubtless  would  interpose  objections  on  purely  moral, 
ethical  and  spiritual  grounds.  Also  the  Fourth  Estate,  whose 
freedom  to  defend  the  sanctity  of  the  home  must  not  be 
impugned  or  calumniated  by  any  suspicion  of  a  material  in- 
terest arising  out  of  the  advertising  income  received  from  the 
before-mentioned  drug  houses.  Also  the  medical  profession, 
a  small  part  of  which  feels  itself  obliged,  like  the  advertising 
profession,  to  turn  human  life  into  gold,  a  large  part  of  which 
is  plain  stupid  and  timid,  and  a  part  of  which — a  small  part — 
is  magnificent  and  may  be  counted  upon  to  go  the  limit  at 
almost  any  cost  to  itself. 

In  contrast  to  what  is  being  done  by  the  birth  control 
clinics  and  what  might  be  done  by  an  intelligent  expenditure 
of  public  funds,  let's  have  one  more  look  at  how  the  job  is 
being  done  by  business  men  and  advertisers  interested  solely 
in  "service"  and  "truth." 

It  is  roughly  estimated  that  the  American  people  spend 
about  $25,000,000  a  year  for  contraceptive  devices  and 
materials.  Largely  because  of  the  failure  of  these  commercially 
exploited  hit-or-miss  techniques,  Prof.  F.  J.  Taussig  of  Wash- 
ington University  estimates  that  there  are  about  700,000  abor- 
tions every  year  in  this  country.  This  situation  is,  of  course, 
highly  exploitable,  especially  because  of  the  bootleg  nature 
of  the  traffic.  The  most  popular  contraceptive  sells  at  a  profit 
to  the  retail  druggist  of  nearly  1000  per  cent.  According  to 
Mr.  Randolph  Cautley  of  the  National  Committee  on  Ma- 
ternal Hygiene,  the  advertising  of  abortifacients  in  the  pulp 
magazines  increased  2800  per  cent  in  one  year — between 


I932  an<3  1933.  It  is,  of  course,  a  commonplace  of  medical 
knowledge  that  no  abortifacient  is  effective  and  that  all  of 
them  are  highly  dangerous  as  well  as  illegal.  In  his  survey 
which  was  incomplete  because  of  the  limited  funds  at  the 
disposal  of  his  organization — the  three  major  contraceptive 
advertisers  spent  a  total  of  $412,647  in  1933 — Mr.  Cautley 
counted  16  advertisers  who  were  obviously  selling  aborti- 
facients,  3  5  who  were  selling  contraceptives  and  20  classified 
as  "uncertain."  The  abortifacient  copy  is  especially  discreet. 
"Use  it  when  nature  fails  you,"  they  advertise,  and  "For  un- 
natural delay.  Double  strength.  Rushed  first  class  mail.*'  Now 
and  then  the  Food  and  Drug  Administration  catches  one  of 
these  rats,  but  it  is  difficult,  and  will  continue  to  be  difficult 
even  under  the  strengthened  provisions  of  the  Copeland  Bill. 





Come  Up  and  See  Me  Some  Time 

THE  mission  of  the  ad-man  is  sanctified  by  the  exigencies 
of  our  capitalist  economy  and  of  our  topsy-turvy  acquisitive 
pseudoculture.  His  mission  is  to  break  down  the  sales  resistance 
of  the  breadlines;  to  restore  prosperity  by  persuading  us  to 
eat  more  yeast,  smoke  more  Old  Golds  and  gargle  more 
assorted  antiseptics.  t  ; 

In  fulfilling  this  mission  it  is  appropriate  that  the  ad-man 
invoke  divine  aid.  The  god  of  America,  indeed  of  the  modern 
world,  is  the  scientist.  Today  it  is  only  in  the  Fundamental- 
ist, Sunday  School  quarterlies  that  God  wears  long  white 
whiskers.  In  the  advertising  pages  of  the  popular  magazines 
He  wears  a  pince-nez  and  an  imperial;  sometimes  He  squints 
through  a  microscope;  or,  instead  of  Moses'  rod,  He  bran- 
dishes a  test  tube.  The  scripture  which  accompanies  these  pic- 
torial pluckings  of  modern  herd  responses  is  austere,  erudite, 
and  asterisked  with  references  to  even  more  erudite  foot- 
notes. The  headline,  however,  is  invariably  simple  and  ex- 
plicit. In  it  the  god  says  that  yeast  is  good  for  what  ails  you. 

The  god  is  often  a  foreign  god,  resident  in  London,  Vienna, 
Paris  or  Budapest.  That  makes  him  all  the  more  impressive 
— and  harder  for  the  skeptical  savants  of  the  American  Medi- 
cal Association  to  get  at  and  chasten. 

In  response  to  a  recent  inquiry  printed  in  the  Journal  of  the 
American  Medical  Association)  these  savants  remarked:  "Yeast 
is  so  uncertain  in  laxative  effect  that  it  is  hardly  justified  ta 

classify  it  among  the  cathartics.  .  .  .  That,  among  the  hosts 
of  persons  taking  yeast  a  skin  disorder  clears  up  occasionally 
is  not  surprising.  The  association  might  be  entirely  accidental. 
The  history  of  yeast,  the  periodic  waning  and  gaining  in 
favor,  suggest  that  it  has  therapeutic  value,  but  that  this  value 
is  slight  indeed." 

Sometimes,  as  in  the  case  of  yeast,  the  god  is  appeased  by 
appropriate  sacrifices:  $750,  f.o.b.  London,  was  the  price 
offered  to  and  declined  by  one  prominent  English  medico. 
Advertisers,  however,  have  little  difficulty  in  rounding  up 
plenty  of  less  fastidious  impersonators  of  the  deity,  and  the 
required  honorariums  are  distressingly  small — less  than  half 
what  is  normally  paid  to  society  leaders.  After  being  duly 
salved  and  photographed,  surrounded  by  the  paraphernalia 
of  his  profession,  the  "scientist"  gives  his  disinterested,  expert, 
scientific  opinion.  But  sometimes  he  goes  further.  He  proves 
that  the  advertiser's  product  is  the  best. 

The  makers  of  Old  Gold  cigarettes  have  gone  in  heavily 
for  this  sort  of  proof.  A  while  back  they  proved  that  Old 
Gold  is  the  "coolest"  cigarette.  This  demonstration  was  made 
by  Drs.  H.  H.  Shalon  and  Lincoln  T.  Work,  for  the  New 
York  Testing  Laboratories.  They  proved,  using  the  "bomb 
calorimeter,"  the  "smokometer"  and  other  assorted  abra- 
cadabra, that  an  Old  Gold  cigarette  contains  6576  B.T.U.'s; 
whereas  Brand  X  contained  6688  B.T.U.'s,  Brand  Y  6731 
B.T.U.'s  and  Brand  Z  6732  B.T.U.'s. 

What,  by  the  way,  is  a  B.T.U.?  It  is  an  abbreviation  for 
"British  Thermal  Unit" — a  measurement  of  beat  content. 
If  Old  Golds  contain  a  fraction  of  a  per  cent  less  B.T.U.'s 
than  the  other  tested  cigarettes,  does  that  make  them  any 
"cooler."  Not  by  a  jugful.  What  does  it  prove?  Nothing. 

Scientists  of  this  stripe  are  almost  painfully  eager  to  show 
that  they  are  good  fellows — that  they  are  prepared  to  "go 
along."  Intellectually,  they  are  humble  creatures — the  altar 
boys  and  organ  blowers  of  the  temple  of  science.  They  have 


wives  with  social  ambitions  and  children  who  need  shoes. 
They  lack  advancement,  and  when  advertisers,  who  are  often 
very  eminent  and  respectable,  make  friendly  and  respectful 
overtures,  they  are  often  very  glad  to  serve  the  needs  of 

Such  friendships  would  doubtless  be  more  general  but  for 
certain  unwarranted  apprehensions,  especially  prevalent 
among  the  banking  fraternity.  The  strong  men  of  Wall  Street 
have  been  slow  in  realizing  that  the  glamorous  Lady  Lou  and 
many  of  these  stiff,  spectacled  earnest  creatures  of  the  labora- 
tory know  their  place  in  an  acquisitive  society;  that  beneath 
that  acid-stained  smock  there  often  beats  a  heart  of  gold. 

Recently  Mr.  Kettering,  vice  president  and  research  director 
of  General  Motors,  felt  obliged  to  defend  the  engineer  against 
the  banker's  charge  that  he  is  upsetting  the  stability  of  busi- 
ness. Said  Mr.  Kettering,  with  a  candor  which  cannot  be  too 
much  admired:  "The  whole  object  of  research  is  to  keep  every 
one  reasonably  dissatisfied  with  what  he  has  in  order  to  keep 
the  factory  busy  in  making  new  things." 

This  definition  of  the  object  of  engineering  research  may 
seem  a  little  startling  at  first.  But  it  must  be  remembered 
that  Mr.  Kettering  is  not  merely  an  engineer,  a  scientist,  but 
also  a  corporation  executive  and  as  such  a  practical  business 
man.  In  fact,  it  might  almost  be  said  that  in  the  statement 
quoted  Mr.  Kettering  speaks  both  as  a  scientist  and  as  an 
advertising  man;  a  scientific  advertising  man,  if  you  like,  or 
an  advertising  scientist.  Hence,  when  he  says  in  effect  that 
in  our  society  the  object  of  scientific  research  is  the  promo- 
tion of  obsolescence  in  all  fields  of  human  purchase  and  use, 
so  that  profit-motivated  manufacturers  may  be  kept  busy 
making  new  things,  his  words,  even  though  they  sound  a 
little  mad,  must  be  listened  to  with  respect.  It  would  appear 
that  under  the  present  regime  of  business,  subject  as  it  is  to 
the  iron  determinants  of  a  surplus  economy,  the  sales  function 
must  be  reinforced  in  every  possible  way.  Hence  the  lesser 

departments  of  science,  with  their  frail  purities,  their  tradi- 
tional humanities,  their  obsolete  and  obstructive  idealisms, 
will  be  brought  more  and  more  under  the  hegemony  of  the 
new  "science"  of  advertising,  than  which  no  department  of 
science  is  more  pure,  more  rigorous.  The  objects  and  ends 
of  this  science  are  predetermined:  they  are,  quite  simply,  to 
turn  people  into  gold,  or  to  induce  people  to  turn  themselves 
into  gold. 

The  medical  experimenter  may  have  qualms  about  vivisect- 
ing his  guinea  pigs  until  he  has  first  anesthetized  them.  The 
biologist  may  drop  a  tear  over  his  holocausts  of  fruit  flies. 
But  the  young  Nietzscheans  who  run  the  advertising  agencies 
observe  a  sterner  discipline.  The  science  of  advertising  is  the 
science  of  exploitation,  and  in  nothing  is  the  ad-man  more 
scientific,  more  ruthless  than  in  his  exploitation  of  "science.** 
He  is  beyond  the  "good"  and  "evil**  of  conventional  morality. 
Not  for  a  moment  can  he  afford  to  forget  his  motto:  "Never 
give  the  moron  a  break.** 




AS  ADVERTISING  became  more  and  more  an  essential  part 
of  the  mechanism  of  sales  promotion,  and  as  our  newspapers 
and  magazines  took  definite  form  as  advertising  businesses, 
the  advertising  profession  became  highly  respectable.  It  was 
part  of  the  status  quo  of  the  acquisitive  society  and  could  be 
effectively  challenged  only  by  persons  and  interests  standing 
outside  this  status  quo. 

As  already  indicated,  the  product  of  advertising  was  a 
culture,  or  pseudoculture.  Advertising  was  engaged  in  manu- 
facturing precisely  the  material  which  our  economists,  soci- 
ologists and  psychologists  are  supposed  to  study,  measure  and 
interpret — necessarily  within  some  framework  of  judgment. 
What  framework?  Where  did  our  social  scientists  stand  during 
advertising's  period  of  expansion  and  conquest? 

They  stood  aside  for  the  most  part  while  advertising  pro- 
ceeded to  play  jackstraws  with  the  "law"  of  supply  and 
demand,  and  other  items  of  orthodox  economic  doctrine. 
Thornstein  Veblen  saw  the  thing  clearly  and  his  brief  treat- 
ment of  advertising  in  Absentee  Oivnership  remains  today 
the  most  exact  description  of  the  nature  of  the  advertising 
phenomenon  which  has  yet  appeared.  But  Veblen  was  a  lone 
wolf  all  his  days.  And  it  has  been  the  journalists,  publicists 
and  engineers,  rather  than  the  professors,  who  have  made 
most  effective  application  of  Veblen's  insights.  Stuart  Chase, 
a  disciple  of  Veblen,  has  worked  without  academic  sanctions, 

while  the  director  of  Consumers'  Research,  Mr.  F.  J.  Schlink, 
is  an  engineer,  and  Mr.  Arthur  Kallet,  his  collaborator  in  the 
writing  of  100,000,000  Guinea  Pigs  is  another.  For  the  most 
part,  orthodox  economists  have  either  ignored  advertising,  or 
in  very  brief  and  inadequate  treatments,  have  complained 
gently  about  its  "vulgarity,"  as  if,  in  the  nature  of  the  case, 
it  could  be  anything  but  vulgar.  A  notable  exception  is  the 
chapter  on  "Consumers  in  the  Market"  by  Professor  Corwin 
Edwards  in  the  second  volume  of  Economic  Behavior  by  mem- 
bers of  the  Economics  department  of  New  York  University. 
Against  this  competent  and  forthright  analysis,  however, 
must  be  set  the  sort  of  thing  which  Leverett  S.  Lyon,  econ- 
omist of  Brooking's  Institute,  contributes  to  Volume  I  of  the 
Encyclopedia  of  Social  Sciences.  I  quote  here  the  concluding 
paragraph  of  Mr.  Lyon's  article: 

Consumer  advertising  is  the  first  rough  effort  of  a  society  becom- 
ing prosperous  to  teach  itself  the  use  of  the  relatively  great  wealth 
of  new  resources,  new  techniques,  and  a  reorganized  production 
method.  Whatever  eventually  becomes  of  advertising,  society  must 
provide  some  device  for  this  task.  Some  agency  must  keep  before  the 
consumer  the  possibilities  resulting  from  constant  advance,  for  the 
world  appears  to  be  learning  to  produce  goods  ever  faster.  Today  the 
voices  crying  most  loudly  in  the  wilderness  of  consumption  are  more 
concerned  with  noisily  advertising  the  weaknesses  of  advertising 
than  with  patient  teaching  of  standards  of  taste  which  will  reform 
advertising  by  indirection.  Other  action  is  possible.  An  increase  of 
government  specifications  would  help,  although  not  as  much  as  is 
often  thought,  and  they  would  require  an  enormous  amount  of 
advertising.  What  is  most  needed  for  American  consumption  is 
training  in  art  and  taste  in  a  generous  consumption  of  goods,  if 
such  there  can  be.  If  beauty  is  profitable,  no  manufacturer  is  de- 
sirous of  producing  crudity  or  vulgarity.  Advertising,  whether  for 
good  or  ill,  is  the  greatest  force  at  work  against  the  traditional 
economy  of  an  age-long  poverty  as  well  as  that  of  our  own  pioneer 
period;  it  is  almost  the  only  force  at  work  against  puritanism  in 


consumption.  It  can  infuse  art  into  the  things  of  life;  and  it  will, 
if  such  an  art  is  possible,  and  if  those  who  realize  what  it  is  will 
let  the  people  know. 

Intelligent  and  honest  advertising  men,  at  least,  will  have 
no  difficulty  in  recognizing  this  as  a  piece  of  advertising  copy 
about  advertising.  Like  practically  all  advertising  copy  it  is  a 
piece  of  special  pleading  and  its  appearance  in  an  otherwise 
excellently  edited  reference  work  is  calamitous  enough  in  all 

It  may  be  observed  incidentally  that  Mr.  Lyon  is  a  frequent 
contributor  to  the  advertising  trade  press.  He  stands  well 
within  the  status  quo,  not  merely  of  orthodox  economic  teach- 
ing, but  of  the  advertising  business  itself.  It  is  natural  enough 
that  he  should  rationalize  and  justify  the  role  of  advertising 
in  our  society,  while  making  the  usual  pretense  of  "objec- 

The  fact  is,  of  course,  that  as  advertising  became  powerful 
and  respectable  it  had  a  good  many  well-paid  jobs  to  offer 
social  scientists,  and  that  none  of  these  jobs  tolerated  any 
degree  of  "objectivity"  whatsoever:  Jobs  of  teaching  mer- 
chandizing and  market  analysis  in  schools  of  business  admin- 
istration; jobs  for  statisticians  as  directors  of  research  in 
advertising  agencies;  jobs  for  psychologists  in  testing  new 
devices  of  cozenage,  measuring  "consumer  reactions,"  etc. 
There  can  be  no  doubt  as  to  whom  these  social  scientists 
belong.  They  belong  to  the  advertising  business,  and  they  can 
no  more  write  "objectively"  about  that  business  than  a  copy 
writer  can  write  objectively  about  his  client's  gargles  and 

With  the  rapid  growth  of  the  schools  of  business  adminis- 
tration since  the  war,  these  business-minded  economists,  psy- 
chologists, statisticians,  etc.,  came  to  rival  in  number  and  in 
influence  their  colleagues  in  the  departments  of  economics 
and  psychology  proper.  But  even  the  strictly  academic  social 

scientists,  practitioners  of  a  "purer"  discipline,  found  increas- 
ing difficulty  in  sustaining  their  claim  of  "objectivity"  and 
the  younger  ones,  especially  the  economists,  pretty  much  gave 
it  up.  Both  the  motivation  and  the  futility  of  this  claim  are 
well  analyzed  by  Mr.  Sidney  Hook  in  an  unpublished  manu- 

The  fascination  of  physical  science  for  the  social  theorists  is  easy 
to  explain.  Not  only  does  it  possess  the  magic  of  success,  but  what 
is  vastly  more  important,  the  promises  of  agreements  and  objec- 
tivity. In  the  popular  mind,  to  be  objective  and  to  be  "scientific" 
are  practically  synonymous  terms.  What  is  more  natural,  therefore, 
than  the  fact  that  in  a  field  in  which  prejudice,  bias,  selective  em- 
phasis are  notorious,  there  should  be  a  constant  appeal  to  a  neutral 
point  of  view.  It  is  this  quest  for  objective  truth  from  a  neutral 
point  of  view,  independent  of  value  judgments,  which  has  become 
the  great  fetich  of  American  social  science. 

It  cannot  be  emphasized  too  strongly  that  the  social  activity 
which  contributes  the  subject  matter  of  the  social  sciences  is  an 
activity  carried  on  by  human  beings  in  pursuit  of  definite  ends.  If 
we  take  these  ends  as  our  starting  point  nothing  is  clearer  than  the 
fact  that  these  ends,  whether  they  be  of  individuals  or  of  classes, 
conflict.  Social  conflicts  are  a  real  and  permanent  feature  of  the 
society  in  which  we  live.  Every  attempt  to  develop  an  objective 
social  science  which  will  do  for  social  organization  what  science  has 
done  for  technology  must  grapple  with  the  difficulty  that  there  are 
as  many  directions  in  which  social  reorganization  may  be  attempted 
as  there  are  social  classes.  The  attempt  to  evade  this  class  conflict 
and  to  refuse  to  regard  it  under  existing  conditions  as  fundamental 
is  behind  the  strenuous  effort  to  emulate  the  "exact  sciences"  in 
which  the  only  recognized  conflict  is  between  the  "true"  and  the 

Taking,  as  Mr.  Hook  suggests,  the  ends  sought  by  adver- 
tising as  the  proper  starting  point  for  a  consideration  of  the 
phenomenon,  let  us  return  to  Mr.  Lyon's  forensic  summation 

and  see  what  it  amounts  to.  He  says:  "Consumer  advertising 
is  the  first  rough  effort  of  a  society  becoming  prosperous  to 
teach  itself  the  use  of  the  relatively  great  wealth  of  new 
resources,  new  techniques  and  a  reorganized  production 
method."  In  the  first  place,  advertising  is  conducted  by  and 
for  advertisers,  and  the  dissemination  of  a  material  culture 
which  it  accomplishes  is  strictly  in  the  interest  of  the  adver- 
tiser, primarily,  and  of  the  total  apparatus  of  the  advertising 
business  secondarily.  The  advertiser  is  concerned  with  "teach- 
ing" the  consumer  only  in  so  far  as  such  teaching  profits  the 
advertiser  and  the  routine  product  of  advertising  is  therefore 
pretty  consistently  mis-educational  rather  than  genuinely 
educational.  This  "teaching"  involves  not  merely  huge  eco- 
nomic wastes  but  a  definite  warping  and  conditioning  of  the 
consumer's  value  judgments  into  conformity  with  the  profit- 
motivated  interests  of  the  advertiser. 

Mr.  Lyon  proposes,  by  implication,  a  "patient  teaching  of 
standards  of  taste  which  will  reform  advertising  by  indirec- 
tion." A  teaching  by  whom  and  for  whom?  Advertising  is 
itself  a  tremendous  "educational"  effort  which  operates  in 
the  interest  of  the  advertiser  with  incidental  profit  to  the 
consumer  only  in  so  far  as  he  can  disentangle  the  truth  from 
a  mass  of  special  pleading,  this  incidental  profit  being  vastly 
overbalanced  by  the  mis-educational  pressures  exerted  not 
merely  on  his  pocketbook  but  upon  his  "taste,"  that  is  to  say, 
his  value  judgments.  Advertising,  as  Veblen  said,  is  not  merely 
an  enterprise  in  sales  promotion,  but  an  enterprise  in  the  pro- 
duction of  customers  which  necessarily  becomes  an  enterprise 
in  "creative  psychiatry."  Does  Mr.  Lyon  propose  that  this 
huge  interested  mis-educational  and  anti-cultural  activity  be 
balanced  and  corrected  by  another  educational  activity?  In 
whose  interest?  Financed  and  conducted  by  whom?  By  Con- 
sumers' Research,  perhaps?  By  government?  But  why  should 
any  government  which  pretends  to  govern  in  the  interests  of 
the  people  as  a  whole  proceed  by  "indirection";  that  is  to  say, 

educate  consumers  to  resist  in  their  own  interest  the  "educa- 
tion" which  advertisers  disseminate  in  their  interest?  Wouldn't 
it  be  simpler  to  eliminate  your  negatives  first  and  then  see  how 
much  and  what  kind  of  positive  education  is  required? 

Advertising,  says  Mr.  Lyon,  "is  almost  the  only  force  at 
work  against  puritanism  in  consumption."  By  what  right  and 
in  whose  behalf  does  he  introduce  this  value  judgment  into 
his  argument?  Maybe  our  people  would  prefer  a  little  more 
puritanism  in  consumption,  intolerable  as  such  an  attitude 
may  be  to  advertisers  operating  in  the  "surplus  economy" 
phase  of  industrial  capitalism.  And  does  advertising  really 
work  against  puritanism  in  consumption?  What  do  you  mean, 
puritanism  in  consumption?  Buying  wheat  for  what  it  is 
worth  instead  of  "puffed  wheat"  at  eight  times  as  much? 
Buying  a  radio  instead  of  shoes  for  the  baby? 

Advertising,  says  Mr.  Lyon,  "can  infuse  art  into  the  things 
of  life,  if  such  an  art  is  possible,  and  if  those  who  realize  what 
it  is  will  let  the  people  know."  How?  By  more  advertising, 
doubtless,  along  the  lines  so  frequently  proposed  by  Mr.  Bruce 
Barton  and  Mr.  Walter  Pitkin  in  the  interests,  not  of  the 
"people"  but  of  the  advertiser  and  the  advertising  business? 

One  gives  space  to  such  lamentable  rationalizers  as  Mr. 
Lyon  only  because  he  represents  so  typically  the  values,  atti- 
tudes and  motives  of  the  ad-man's  pseudoculture  as  they  are 
currently  set  forth  by  advertising  apologists.  We  shall  en- 
counter precisely  the  same  kind  of  logical  jabberwocky  when 
we  come  to  consider  the  radio  and  the  movies.  Meanwhile, 
let  us  have  a  look  at  the  role  of  the  psychologists. 




How  Am  I  Doing? 

ADVERTISING,  defined  as  the  technique  of  producing  cus- 
tomers, rather  than  the  technique  of  selling  goods  and  services, 
employs  well-known  psychological  devices,  and  the  advertis- 
ing man  is,  in  fact,  a  journeyman  psychologist.  Academic  and 
business  school  psychologists  are  therefore  naturally  and  prop- 
erly interested  in  advertising  as  a  field  of  study.  But  when  the 
quality  and  effects  of  this  interest  are  examined,  there  would 
appear  to  be  a  conflict  between  the  layman's  naive  view  of 
psychology  as  a  disinterested  "objective"  scientific  discipline, 
and  certain  current  activities  of  academic  psychologists  in 
the  field  of  applied  psychology. 

In  1920,  the  founder  of  the  American  school  of  "Behavior- 
ism," Dr.  John  B.  Watson,  resigned  his  professorship  at  Johns 
Hopkins  and  entered  the  employ  of  the  J.  Walter  Thompson 
Advertising  Agency.  Psychologists  have  questioned  the  origi- 
nality and  value  of  Dr.  Watson's  contributions  to  the  young 
science  of  psychology.  But  his  contributions,  as  a  business 
man,  to  the  technique  of  advertising  are  outstanding. 

The  J.  Walter  Thompson  Company  is  one  of  the  largest  and 
most  consistently  successful  advertising  agencies  in  the  world. 
Over  the  past  fourteen  years  the  advertising  which  it  has 
turned  out  has  betrayed  increasingly  the  touch  of  the  master's 
hand.  It  is  good  advertising,  effective  advertising.  It  is  also 
more  or  less  unscrupulous,  judged  by  ethical  standards,  even 
the  ethical  standards  of  the  advertising  profession  itself.  It  is 


natural  that  this  should  be  so,  since  ethical  considerations  are 
irrelevant  to  the  application  of  scientific  method  in  the  ex- 
ploitation of  the  consumer. 

Consider  the  advertising  of  such  products  as  Fleischmann's 
Yeast,  Woodbury's  Facial  Soap,  Lifebuoy  Soap,  Pond's  Van- 
ishing Cream,  etc. — all  J.  Walter  Thompson  accounts  of  long 
standing.  In  this  and  other  advertising  prepared  by  this 
agency,  the  fear-sex-emulation  formula  is  used  systematically 
to  "condition  the  reflexes"  of  the  reader  into  conformity  with 
the  profit-motivated  interests  of  the  advertiser.  By  putting 
the  bought-and-paid-f  or  testimonial  technique  on  a  mass  pro- 
duction basis,  this  agency  has  doubtless  achieved  important 
economies  for  the  advertiser  in  the  production  of  customers. 
Dr.  "Watson's  agency  was  also  one  of  the  leaders  in  the  adapta- 
tion to  advertising  of  the  story-in-pictures-balloon  technique 
borrowed  from  Hogarth  via  the  tabloids.  Objections  on  the 
score  of  ethics  and  taste  are  met  by  the  realistic  argument 
that  the  market  for  these  products  consists  chiefly  of  fourteen- 
year-old  intelligences,  and  that  the  unedifying  means  used  to 
convert  these  morons  into  customers  are  justified  by  the  ends 
achieved:  the  profits  accruing  to  the  advertiser,  the  internal 
and  external  cleanliness  of  the  moron,  and  the  fixation  of 
systematized  illusions  in  the  minds  of  the  public,  necessary 
to  the  use  and  wont  of  an  acquisitive  society. 

Nothing  succeeds  like  success.  Probably  Dr.  Watson  was 
never  obliged  to  ask  his  employers,  "How  am  I  doing?"  His 
achievements  were  manifest,  and  his  present  salary  as  vice 
president  of  his  agency  is  reputed  to  be  four  times  the  maxi- 
mum stipend  of  a  university  professor. 

Nothing  succeeds  like  success.  It  may  well  be  alleged  that 
the  prestige  of  business  dominates  the  American  psychology, 
not  excepting  the  psychology  of  American  psychologists. 
Veblen,  whose  approach  to  economics  was  through  social  psy- 
chology and  the  analysis  of  institutional  arrangements,  had 
an  Olympian  respect  for  himself,  and  no  respect  whatever 


for  business.  But  in  terms  of  pecuniary  aggrandizement  and 
academic  kudos,  Veblen  got  nowhere  during  his  lifetime. 
Hence  it  was  natural  that  in  the  field  of  applied  psychology, 
contemporary  psychologists  would  have  chosen  to  follow 
Watson  rather  than  Veblen. 

In  1921,  the  year  following  the  elevation  of  Dr.  Watson's 
talents  to  the  realms  of  pecuniary  accumulation,  an  organiza- 
tion called  the  Psychological  Corporation  was  incorporated 
under  the  laws  of  the  State  of  New  York. 

The  stock  of  the  corporation  is  held  by  some  300  American 
psychologists,  all  of  them  members  of  the  American  Psycho- 
logical Association,  and  most  of  them  having  the  status  of 
professor  or  assistant  professor  in  American  universities  and 

The  second  article  of  the  corporation's  charter  reads  as 

The  objects  and  powers  of  this  corporation  shall  be  the  advance- 
ment of  psychology  and  the  promotion  of  the  useful  applications 
of  psychology.  It  shall  have  power  to  enter  into  contracts  for  the 
execution  of  psychological  work,  to  render  expert  services  involving 
the  application  of  psychology  to  educational,  business,  administra- 
tive and  other  problems,  and  to  do  all  other  things  not  inconsistent 
with  the  law  under  which  this  corporation  is  organized,  to  advance 
psychology  and  to  promote  its  useful  applications. 

This  article  is  quoted  in  one  of  the  sales  pamphlets  issued  by 
the  corporation  and  is  supplemented  by  the  following  para- 

In  the  hands  of  those  properly  qualified,  psychology  can  be  ap- 
plied usefully  to  many  problems  of  business  and  industry,  and  of 
educational,  vocational  and  personal  adjustment.  The  purpose  of  the 
Psychological  Corporation  is  to  promote  such  applications  of  the 
science  and  to  prevent,  where  possible,  its  exploitation  by  pseudo- 
scientists.  A  portion  of  all  fees  for  services  rendered  by  the  cor- 

poration  is  devoted  to  research  and  the  advancement  of  scientific 
knowledge  of  human  behavior. 

At  a  special  meeting  of  the  stockholders  and  representatives 
of  the  corporation,  held  in  conjunction  with  the  1933  con- 
vention of  the  American  Psychological  Association  at  Chi- 
cago, Dr.  Henry  C.  Link,  Secretary  and  Treasurer  of  the 
corporation,  presented  his  report.  In  effect  Dr.  Link  was  ap- 
pealing to  the  value  judgments  of  his  colleagues.  He  was 
saying:  the  corporation  has  been  doing  such  and  such  things. 
Business,  especially  the  advertising  business,  thinks  we  have 
been  doing  pretty  well.  How  do  you  think  we  have  been 

There  was  a  row,  a  fairly  loud  row,  judged  by  academic 
standards,  and  it  got  into  the  papers.  Some  of  the  assembled 
psychologists,  themselves  stockholders  in  the  corporation, 
seemed  to  feel  that  Dr.  Link  had  sold  the  integrity,  the  purity 
of  American  psychology  down  the  river  to  the  advertising 
business.  Among  the  more  forthright  objectors  was  Dr.  A.  W. 
Kornhauser,  associate  professor  of  Business  Psychology  at  the 
University  of  Chicago.  It  is  interesting  to  note  that  the  most 
strenuous  objection  came,  not  from  one  of  the  science-for- 
science's-sake  psychologists,  but  from  a  business  school  pro- 
fessor. Perhaps  it  was  because  Dr.  Kornhauser  is  more  aware 
of  the  nature  and  methods  of  business  than  some  of  his  less 
sophisticated  associates.  But  before  we  discuss  this  row,  it  will 
be  necessary  to  describe  briefly  the  sort  of  thing  that  the 
Psychological  Corporation  had  been  doing. 

Perhaps  the  most  distinguished  achievement  to  which  Dr. 
Link  pointed  with  pride  was  co-operative  study,  carried  on 
by  sixty  psychologists,  of  the  effectiveness  of  advertising, 
particularly  among  housewives.  Dr.  Link's  report  of  this 
study  was  published  in  the  January,  1933,  issue  of  the  Harvard 
Business  Review. 

Between  March  16  and  April  4,  1933,  1,578  housewives 


in  15  widely  scattered  cities  and  towns  were  interviewed 
by  instructors  and  graduate  students  of  psychology  work- 
ing under  the  supervision  of  some  fifteen  assorted  Ph.  D.'s 
and  M.  A.'s.  They  used  a  test  questionnaire  which  asked  such 
questions  as  the  following: 

What  canned  fruit  company  advertises  "Just  the  Center  Slices"? 
What  toothpaste  advertises  "Heavens!  Buddy  must  have  a  girl!"? 
What  product  used  in  automobiles  uses  pictures  of  little  black,  dogs 
in  its  advertising?  What  product  asks  "What  is  the  critical  age  of 
the  skin"?  What  toothpaste  advertises  "Pink  Toothbrush"?  What 
product  for  use  in  automobiles  has  been  using  advertisements  show- 
ing pictures  of  fish,  tigers,  flying  geese  and  other  animals?  What  do 
85%  of  dentists  recommend  (according  to  an  advertisement)  for 
purifying  the  breath?  What  soap  advertises  "I  learned  from  a  beauty 
expert  how  to  hold  my  husband"?  What  does,  for  a  product  used  in 
automobiles,  what  butter  does  for  bread?  What  company  or  product 
advertised  "This  is  Mrs.  F.  C.  Adgerton  of  Spokane,  Washington"? 
What  company  advertises  "Don't  wait  till  the  doctor  tells  you  to 
keep  of  your  feet"?  What  electric  refrigerator  is  "Dual-automatic"? 
What  company  advertises  a  widely  used  toilet  product  as  often 
containing  "harmful  acids"? 

There  is  a  total  of  twenty-seven  questions  of  this  sort  on 
the  questionnaire  and  the  housewives  had  to  answer  all  of 
them.  The  mind  shrinks  from  contemplating  either  the 
amount  of  high-powered  psychological  persuasion  required 
to  hold  them  to  their  task,  or  the  sufferings  endured  by  these 
1,578  female  guinea  pigs  in  the  cause  of  "science."  How  many 
doorbells  had  to  be  rung  before  one  willing  housewife  was 
captured?  Did  they  suffer?  And  how  much?  Dr.  Link  should 
have  answered  those  questions,  too.  I  am  sure  the  answers 
would  prove  something,  although  I  am  not  sure  just  what. 

What  was  proved,  beyond  question,  when  the  question- 
naires were  all  turned  in,  collated,  tabulated,  analyzed,  etc., 
by  the  most  rigorous  scientific  methods,  was,  that,  sure 

enough,  housewives  did  read  advertising.  I  quote  from  Dr. 
Link's  article: 

The  outstanding  result  of  this  test  is  the  proof  of  the  amazing 
influence  which  advertising  can  and  often  does  exert.  For  example, 
1,090  or  69%  of  the  1,578  housewives  answered  "Chase  &  San- 
born"  to  the  question  about  the  "Date  on  the  can."  The  correct 
answer,  "Ipana"  was  given  by  943  or  59.7%  of  these  women  to  the 
question  regarding  "Pink  Toothbrush."  On  the  other  hand,  the 
themes  of  certain  very  extensive  campaigns  registered  correctly 
among  only  15.65,  11.3%,  and  even  7%  of  these  housewives.  In 
some  cases,  single  advertisements,  appearing  only  once,  registered 
better  than  campaigns  which  had  run  in  all  the  major  magazines 
for  six  months,  a  year,  or  longer.  That  is  to  say,  some  advertising 
was  50,  100  or  150  times  more  effective,  as  measured  by  this  test, 
than  other  advertising.  The  most  conspicuous  example  of  this  was 
the  result  of  the  question,  What  soap  advertises  "Stop  those  runs 
in  stockings"?  This  was  the  headline,  explained  in  the  copy,  of  a 
full-page  advertisement  for  Lux  soap  which  had  appeared  in  just 
one  of  the  leading  women's  magazines.  Almost  one  half,  of  the 
housewives,  47.7%,  answered  "Lux."  This  one  insertion,  costing 
about  $8,000,  was  found  six  times  as  effective  as  a  year's  campaign 
advertising  another  article  and  costing  about  a  million  dollars,  a 
ratio  of  750  to  i.  The  average  of  correct  answers  to  the  thirteen 
most  effective  campaigns  or  advertisements  was  36.3%.  The  aver- 
age for  the  fourteen  least  effective  was  8.8%. 

The  writer  is  not  qualified  to  judge  the  scientific  integrity 
of  Dr.  Link's  methods.  But  the  findings  of  this  study  are 
manifestly  highly  interesting  and  useful  to  advertisers,  adver- 
tising agencies  and  advertising  managers  of  publications,  who, 
incidentally  got  all  this  research  for  nothing.  It  was  done 
gratuitously  by  the  co-operating  psychologists,  assistants 
and  students,  as  a  disinterested  effort  toward  the  "advance- 
ment of  scientific  knowledge  of  human  behavior."  .  .  .  Well, 
perhaps  not  wholly  disinterested.  The  published  study  was  in 


effect,  a  free  sample  and  an  advertisement  of  the  sort  of  thing 
the  Psychological  Corporation  is  equipped  to  do.  Doubtless 
it  was  a  successful  advertisement,  since  the  corporation  dur- 
ing 1933  conducted  many  scientific  investigations,  sponsored 
and  paid  for  by  individual  advertisers,  and  conducted  by  its 
wideflung  organization  of  psychology  professors,  instructors 
and  students. 

In  other  words,  what  Dr.  Link  was  presenting  proudly  to 
his  assembled  colleagues  was  a  successful  advertising  busi- 
ness, operating  efficiently  according  to  current  standards,  and 
using  advertising  to  sell  its  services.  Incidentally  this  busi- 
ness is  in  a  position  to  cut  the  market  price  for  advertising 
research  because  public  and  philanthropic  funds  help  to  sup- 
port the  co-operating  professors,  and  they  in  turn  are  able  to 
use  their  students  as  Tom  Sawyer  labor,  sustained  wholly  or 
in  part  by  the  pure  passion  of  science. 

Whether  "scientific"  or  not,  that  study  of  1,578  house- 
wives was  indubitably  a  contribution.  To  whom  and  for 
what  end?  Not  to  science,  but  to  the  advertising  business,  to 
the  end  that  it  might  conduct  more  efficiently  its  effort  to 
"teach  the  use  of  the  relatively  great  wealth,  of  new  resources, 
new  techniques  and  a  reorganized  production  method."  (L. 
S.  Lyon's  definition  in  the  Encyclopedia  of  Social  Sciences) . 

This  effort  makes  systematic  use  of  techniques  which  are 
most  accurately  characterized  by  Veblen's  phrase:  "creative 
psychiatry."  For  example,  one  of  the  advertising  campaigns 
tested  was  that  of  Ipana  Toothpaste,  which  for  the  past  ten 
years  or  more  has  been  parroting  "Pink  Toothbrush,"  in  the 
effort  to  make  people  worry  about  their  gums  and  buy  an 
expensive  toothpaste,  the  use  of  which  is  alleged  to  prevent 
the  gums  from  bleeding,  the  advertising  being  the  customary 
melange  of  half-truth,  inference  and  ambiguity. 

When,  therefore,  Dr.  Link  appealed  to  the  suffrages  of  his 
professional  colleagues,  it  was  upon  the  following  grounds: 
that  the  Psychological  Corporation  has  established  efficient 

machinery  by  which  its  members  might  sell  their  scientific 
abilities  and  the  leg  work  of  their  students  to  advertisers  en- 
gaged, to  quote  Veblen  once  more,  in  "the  creative  guidance 
of  habit  and  bias,  by  recourse  to  shock  effects,  tropismatic 
reactions,  animal  orientation,  forced  movements,  fixation  of 
ideas,  verbal  intoxication.  ...  A  trading  on  that  range  of 
human  infirmities  which  blossom  in  devout  observances  and 
fruit  in  the  psychopathic  wards." 

What  happened?  The  next  annual  meeting  of  the  Board 
of  Directors  of  the  Psychological  Corporation  was  held  in 
New  York  on  Dec.  i,  1933.  The  managing  director,  Dr. 
Paul  S.  Achilles,  explained  that  the  objections  of  Dr.  Korn- 
hauser  and  others  may  have  arisen  from  insufficient  knowl- 
edge on  the  part  of  many  psychologists  of  the  charter  and 
purposes  of  the  corporation  and  the  nature  and  extent  of  its 
current  activities.  He  said  that  inasmuch  as  the  corporation 
had  never  been  subsidized  nor  conceived  as  an  organization 
to  be  supported  by  subsidies,  his  efforts  for  the  past  three 
years  had  necessarily  been  concentrated  chiefly  on  putting  the 
corporation  on  a  self-sustaining  basis. 

It  was  Dr.  Achilles'  opinion  that  the  two  basic  assumptions 
on  which  the  corporation  was  founded  are:  (i)  That  psy- 
chologists render  services  of  economic  value;  and  (2)  that  a 
business  organization  of  co-operative  psychologists  rendering 
such  services  could  not  only  be  self-supporting  and  useful 
to  the  science  but  could  earn  funds  for  research  and  improve- 
ment of  services.  He  felt  that  only  as  the  corporation  suc- 
ceeded first  in  demonstrating  its  capacity  for  self-support 
through  rendering  creditable  and  marketable  services  such 
as  it  was  now  offering  could  it  hope  to  achieve  its  larger  aims. 
In  brief  his  feeling  was  that  it  was  equally  if  not  more  re- 
spectable for  psychologists  to  earn  their  own  way  and  their 
funds  for  research  than  to  depend  on  subsidies. 

Dr.  W.  S.  Woodworth,  of  Columbia,  expressed  the  opinion 
that  one  of  the  original  aims  of  the  corporation  was  to  have 


frankly  a  commercial  standing  so  that  it  could  do  business 
with  business  men  with  more  freedom  and  directness  than  a 
university  professor  usually  feels  that  he  can.  Further,  in 
regard  to  the  corporation's  market  survey  work,  that  this 
seemed  a  legitimate  field  and  that  the  mere  fact  that  a  mar- 
ket study  involved  personal  interviewing  did  not  make  it 
unworthy  or  undignified. 

The  matter  was  clinched  by  the  treasurer's  report  showing 
an  125%  increase  of  gross  receipts  by  the  corporation  over 
the  preceding  year,  and  payments  of  $7,000  to  psychologists 
representing  the  corporation  and  their  students.  The  cor- 
poration, which  had  been  in  the  red  for  some  time,  was 
climbing  out.  Dr.  Achilles  (who  incidentally  has  been  serving 
without  salary)  and  Dr.  Link  were  re-elected  as  managing 
director  and  secretary-treasurer  respectively.  Other  names 
on  the  present  list  of  officers  and  directors  are  J.  McKeen 
Cattell,  E.  L.  Thorndike,  L.  M.  Terman,  Walter  Dill  Scott, 
W.  V.  B.  Bingham,  A.  T.  Poffenberger,  R.  S.  Woodworth  and 
Ronsis  Likert. 

So  that  is  that,  as  we  used  to  say  when  the  client  laid  down 
the  law  at  an  advertising  conference.  It  looks  bad  for  my  old 
friends  in  the  research  departments  of  the  advertising  agencies. 
If  the  Psychological  Corporation,  under  its  present  efficient 
management,  continues  to  progress,  this  sweated  academic 
scab  labor  is  going  to  take  the  bread  out  of  the  mouths  of  a 
lot  of  families  I  know  in  Bronxville,  Great  Neck  and  else- 
where. Doubtless,  too,  the  standards  of  advertising  research 
will  be  greatly  improved,  when  the  job  is  taken  over  by 
psychologists  instead  of  the  more  or  less  irresponsible  appren- 
tices in  the  agencies  to  whom  such  work  is  ordinarily  assigned. 

In  the  old  days  before  the  war  I  remember  that  advertis- 
ing research  was  considered  to  be  something  of  a  joke.  You 
knew  the  answer  before  you  started  out.  Your  job  was  to 
get  the  documents.  We,  too,  went  out  with  questionnaires, 
were  chased  down  the  street  by  irate  Italian  green  grocers, 


and  got  our  toes  caught  in  doors  closed  energetically  by  un- 
co-operative housewives.  It  really  wasn't  so  very  dignified, 
Dr.  Woodworth,  but  it  had  its  humorous  compensations  and 
it  kept  one  in  the  open  air.  I  recall  a  two-hundred-pound 
football  player  who  on  graduation  drifted  into  an  advertis- 
ing agency  where  I  worked  and  was  assigned  to  research.  It 
was  the  middle  of  July,  and  he  had  to  interview  some  fifty 
housewives  residing  somewhere  in  the  Oranges.  I  forget  what 
he  had  to  ask  them.  Did  they  use  Gypso,  maybe,  and  if  not 
why  not? 

His  name  was — call  him  Mr.  Retriever.  Two  days  later, 
Retriever  stumbled  back  into  the  office  in  a  state  of  moral 
and  physical  exhaustion.  Somebody  was  callous  enough  to 
ask  him  how  he  had  been  doing  and  how  he  felt. 

'Tve  lost  twenty  pounds,"  said  Mr.  Retriever.  "I  feel  like 
the  hobo  who  started  cross  the  continent  by  freight.  He  got 
aboard  the  car  next  the  engine  and  the  brakeman  kicked  him 
off.  He  grabbed  the  next  car  and  got  aboard.  The  brakeman 
kicked  him  off,  but  he  scrambled  back  into  the  third  car. 
This  ritual  continued  until  the  train  stopped  at  a  way  sta- 
tion, when  the  hobo  walked  to  the  front  of  the  train  and  got 
aboard  the  first  car.  The  brakeman  spotted  him  and  in  ex- 
asperation demanded:  "Brother,  where  in  hell  are  you  going?" 
"I'm  going  to  Kansas  City,"  replied  the  hobo,  "if  my  tail 
holds  out." 

The  sacrifices  of  dignity  demanded  of  an  advertising  re- 
searcher are  in  fact  extreme.  I  recall  a  baby- faced  collegian 
who  rang  a  doorbell  somewhere  in  the  wilds  of  Bergen 
County.  There  appeared  in  the  doorway  a  comely  middle- 
aged  German  woman  who  listened  silently  to  his  patter, 
meanwhile  scrutinizing  him  shrewdly.  When  he  finished, 
she  gave  him  a  ravishing  smile  and  said:  "I  know  what  you 
want.  You  want  a  piece  of  apfelkuchen."  The  collegian 
blushed,  searched  his  conscience  and  said:  "Yes."  This  par- 
ticular anecdote  has  a  Rabelaisian  sequel  which  the  writer 


feels  obliged  to  withhold,  in  deference  to  the  feelings  of  the 
Better  Business  Bureau.  In  a  contribution  to  the  Nov.  9,, 
1933,  issue  of  Printers9  Ink,  Dr.  Link  states  that  "during  the 
last  two  years  we  have  interviewed  almost  12,000  women  in 
their  homes,  in  more  than  sixty  cities  and  towns."  One  is  sure 
that  the  anecdotal  literature  of  advertising  research  has  been 
greatly  enriched  by  these  investigations. 

It  is  possible,  of  course,  that  the  Psychological  Corporation, 
representing  as  it  does  the  idealism  and  public  spirit  of  Ameri- 
can psychologists,  is  secretly  engaged  in  boring  from  within 
the  advertising  business;  one  notes  the  repeated  references  ta 
the  scientific  research  which  these  pot-boiling  activities  are 
designed  to  finance.  Possibly  the  corporation  intends  to  take 
ias  a  point  of  departure  Veblen's  description  of  advertising  as 
an  enterprise  in  "creative  psychiatry,"  and,  using  the  data 
obtained  by  its  commercially  sponsored  investigations,  in- 
stitute studies  designed  to  show  just  what  the  advertising 
business  has  done  to  improve  or  debauch  the  mental,  ethical 
and  moral  level  of  the  average  American.  An  attitude  of 
suspended  judgment  is  therefore  indicated.  The  difficulty  is 
that  a  study  such  as  that  above  suggested  would  require  some 
framework  of  value  judgment,  which  would  be  most  un- 
scientific. And  if,  in  spite  of  this  objection,  the  corporation 
elected  to  make  such  a  study,  to  whom  would  it  report  its 
results,  asking  again,  "How  am  I  doing?" 




ALTHOUGH  not  a  part  of  the  advertising  business  proper, 
the  movie  industry  maintains  and  is  maintained  by  a  huge 
and  efficiently  operated  advertising  apparatus — the  dozen  or 
so  popular  movie  magazines  whose  combined  circulation  of 
over  3,000,000  ranks  next  in  volume  to  that  of  the  women's 

These  magazines  serve  in  effect  as  house  organs  for  the 
$42,000,000,000  movie  industry  which  every  week  spreads 
its  wares  before  77,000,000  American  movie-goers,  including 
28,000,000  minors.  But  like  other  mass  and  class  publica- 
tions these  movie  magazines  are  also  house  organs  for  their 
advertisers — chiefly  manufacturers  of  cosmetics,  drugs  and 
fashion  goods.  How  this  dual  role  is  worked  out  and  how  the 
movie  magazines  articulate  into  the  general  economic  scheme 
of  the  movie  industry  becomes  at  once  apparent  when  we 
examine  their  promotion  literature.  I  quote  from  a  loose- 
leaf  promotion  booklet  issued  by  Photoplay  Magazine,  the 
largest  and  most  successful  of  the  movie  magazines: 

Photoplay  offers  you  a  concentrated,  compact  audience  of  600,- 
ooo  predominantly  younger  women — the  New  Wanters  .  .  .  Pho- 
toplay ...  is  outstandingly  tributary  to  the  great  sales-making, 
want-building  influence  of  the  screen. 

We  begin  to  glimpse  what  is  perhaps  the  major  role  of  the 


movie  in  our  society,  and  a  little  later,  in  a  signed  statement 
by  the  editor,  Mr.  James  R.  Quirk,  we  find  this  role  explicitly 

It  became  increasingly  apparent  to  the  publishers  of  Photoplay 
that  the  vast  public  who  spent  millions  through  motion  picture 
box  offices  was  interested  in  more  than  the  stories  flashed  upon  the 
screen;  that  they  were  absorbing  something  beyond  the  vicarious 
emotions  and  adventures  of  the  screen  folk. 

The  millions  of  young  women  who  attended  motion  pictures 
began  to  realise  that,  closely  observing  the  stars  and  leading  women 
of  the  screen,  they  could  take  lessons  to  enhance  their  own  attrac- 
tiveness and  personality.  Hollywood  became  the  beauty  center  of 
the  world.  .  .  . 

Following  closely  the  new  interests  which  the  motion  picture 
provoked  in  the  minds  of  the  audience,  and  the  desires  of  millions 
of  women  to  profit  by  their  achievement  of  beauty,  the  magazine 
sent  experts  on  beauty  and  fashions  and  famous  photographers  to 
Hollywood  and  reported  to  its  readers  every  new  phase  of  the  de- 
velopment of  feminine  attractiveness.  These  subjects  today  share 
in  basic  importance  with  the  news  of  Hollywood  pictures  and 

That  made  Photoplay  outstanding  as  a  medium  for  advertisers. 
...  Its  readers  are  inspired  by  the  editorial  pages  to  buy  the  goods 
shown  in  its  advertising  pages.  The  editorial  and  advertising  in- 
terests dovetail  perfectly. 

Its  fashion  and  beauty  editors,  all  of  whom  have  had  training  in 
actual  merchandising,  are  recognized  by  the  trades  as  experts.  Such 
stores  as  Marshall  Field  &  Company  of  Chicago  use  its  fashion 
pages  in  their  selections  and  merchandising,  and  credit  Photoplay 
in  their  newspaper  advertising,  recognizing  the  combined  style 
promotion  power  of  the  screen  and  the  magazine.  Thousands  of 
beauty  shops  throughout  the  country  receive  and  display  its  an- 
nouncements of  new  Hollywood  coiffures  and  new  beauty  methods 
of  the  most  beautiful  stars. 

One  somehow  gets  the  impression  that  Mr.  Quirk  knows 

what  the  motion  picture  industry  is  all  about  and  what  it  is 
for.  This  impression  is  confirmed  when  we  note  that  Photo- 
play lists  over  80  well-known  manufacturers  of  drugs,  cos- 
metics and  fashion  goods  among  its  1931-32  advertisers.  It 
is  further  confirmed  by  the  following  even  more  explicit 
statement  of  the  nature  of  the  business,  quoted  from  the  same 

When  women  go  to  the  movies  they  go  to  see  themselves  not  in 
the  mirror  but  in  the  ideal  world  of  fancy.  During  that  hour  or 
two  in  the  romantic  world  of  make-believe,  potent  influences 
are  at  work.  New  desires  are  instilled,  new  wants  implanted,  new 
impulses  to  spend  are  aroused.  These  impulses  may  be  at  the  moment 
only  vague  longings,  but  sooner  or  later  they  will  crystallize  into 
definite  wants. 

When  the  American  woman  sees  her  favorite  screen  actress  and 
notes  with  very  keen  interest  every  detail  of  her  attire  .  .  .  she  is 
immersed  in  that  mood  which  makes  her  most  receptive  to  the 
suggestion  that  she  must  have  these  lovely  things  for  her  own  .  .  . 
and  she  will  scheme  and  plan  to  have  for  her  own  the  charming 
frocks  and  appealing  millinery,  the  smart  footwear,  the  seductive 
furs  and  wraps — all  the  tempting  possessions  which  the  silver 
screen  has  so  seductively  exposed  to  her  view.  .  .  . 

The  motion  picture  paves  the  -way.  Photoplay  carries  on,  renew- 
ing the  impulses  caught  on  the  screen.  It  gives  your  product's  ad- 
dress and  telephone  number. 

The  facts  are  as  stated,  and  the  argument  is  logical  and 
convincing.  It  is  clinched  on  the  next  page  by  a  skillful 
reference  to  what  is  without  doubt  the  major  asset  of  this 
movie-advertising  coalition,  which  is  Youth. 

Last  year  two  million,  next  year  two  million,  in  the  next  ten 
years  twenty  million,  young  men  and  women  will  come  of  age.  .  .  . 

They  will  want  necessities,  pleasures,  luxuries.  And  they  will  get 
them — because  their  buying  temperature  is  high.  ...  It  will  pay 


you  handsomely  to  find  the  best  point  of  contact  with  these  mil- 
lions of  new  wanters.  It  will  pay  you  to  lay  your  wares  before 
them  in  the  atmosphere  of  enthusiasm  and  romance  in  which  the 
desire  to  own  the  good  things  of  life  is  engendered.  .  .  .  Photo- 
play's audience,  600,000  strong,  is  predominantly  -with  the  younger 

What  is  the  nature  of  this  admirable  piece  of  promotion 
literature,  prepared  under  the  direction  of  one  of  America's 
leading  publisher's  consultants? 

It  is,  quite  evidently,  by  way  of  being  applied  sociology 
and  psychology.  It  is  supplemented  by  tables  and  graphs 
showing  the  buying  power  of  Photoplay's  readers,  these  be- 
ing based  on  the  research  of  Daniel  Starch,  Ph.  D.,  who  op- 
erates a  well-known  and  successful  commercial  research 
bureau.  Dr.  Starch's  figures  seem  startlingly  high,  but  there  is 
really  no  good  reason  for  supposing  that  his  study  was  less 
honest,  less  "objective,"  than  that  of  the  group  of  sociologists, 
psychologists  and  educators  who  conducted  the  Payne  Fund 
study  of  the  motion  picture  with  respect  to  its  influence 
upon  children  and  adolescents.  Dr.  Starch  was  employed  by 
the  allied  motion  picture-advertising  business  which  has  an 
axe  to  grind,  and  admits  it.  The  Payne  Fund  investigation 
was  financed  by  a  philanthropic  foundation  and  instigated 
by  a  middle-class  reform  organization,  the  Motion  Picture 
Research  Council,  which  also  has  an  axe  to  grind,  a  moral  axe, 
if  you  will.  A  little  later  we  shall  encounter  another  eminent 
sociologist  and  psychologist  operating  in  this  arena,  namely 
Mr.  Will  Hays,  who  also  has  an  axe  to  grind  and  more  or  less 
admits  it,  although  in  the  nature  of  the  case  Mr.  Hays'  opera- 
tions require  a  lavish  output  of  pragmatic  make-believe. 

But  first  let  us  attempt  to  construct,  on  the  foundations 
already  laid,  a  slow-motion  picture  of  what  this  business  is 
and  how  it  works. 

As  in  all  other  forms  of  advertising,  the  causal  sequence 


traces  back  to  mass  production  as  the  most  profitable  tech- 
nique of  exploiting  the  "art  and  science"  of  the  motion  pic- 
ture. Mass  production  requires  mass  distribution  (including 
block  booking  and  blind  booking)  and  mass  advertising;  also 
standardization  of  the  product  in  terms  of  maximum  sal- 
ability  and  a  systematic  "production  of  customers  by  a  pro- 
duction of  systematized  illusions."  The  Payne  Fund  investi- 
gators discovered  with  horror  that  between  75  and  80  per 
cent  of  current  motion  pictures  deal  with  crime,  sex  and  love 
— obstinately  refusing  to  merge  the  second  two  categories. 

Surely  this  is  pretty  much  beside  the  point;  an  analysis  of 
Shakespeare's  plays  would  probably  show  an  even  higher 
content  of  such  subject  matter. 

The  Photoplay  promotion  booklet,  written  by  people  who 
really  know  something  about  the  industry,  hits  the  nail  on 
the  head  in  emphasizing  the  standard  content  of  romance, 
luxury  and  conspicuous  expenditure.  This  is  not  only  the 
commodity  of  maximum  salability,  but  in  the  process  of  its 
manufacture  and  sale  there  emerges  an  important  by-product 
which  is  duly  sold  to  advertisers  by  the  movie  magazines. 

Why  does  the  motion  picture  with  a  high  content  of  "ro- 
mance," "beauty"  and  conspicuous  expenditure  represent 
the  standard  movie  product  of  maximum  salability?  Because 
the  dominant  values  of  the  society  are  material  and  acquisi- 
tive. And  because  the  masses  of  the  population,  being  eco- 
nomically debarred  from  the  attainment  of  these  values  in 
real  life,  love  to  enjoy  them  vicariously  in  the  dream  world 
of  the  silver  screen.  The  frustrations  of  real  life  are  both 
alleviated  and  sharpened  by  the  pictures.  As  in  the  case  of 
sex,  the  imaginative  release  is  only  partially  satisfying,  and 
the  female  adolescent,  particularly,  leaves  the  motion  picture 
theatre  scheming,  planning  "to  have  for  her  own  ...  all 
the  tempting  possessions  which  the  silver  screen  has  so  se- 
ductively exposed  to  her  view."  From  this  point  Photoplay 
carries  on,  and  renews  the  sweet  torture  in  both  its  editorial 


and  advertising  columns,  so  that  the  stenographer  goes  with- 
out lunch  to  buy  her  favorite  star's  favorite  face  cream.  The 
sales  cycle  is  now  completed,  and  the  following  mentioned 
profit-makers  have  duly  participated:  the  producer,  distrib- 
utor and  exhibitor  of  the  motion  picture;  the  motion  picture 
magazine;  Dr.  Starch,  who  helped  to  present  the  merits  of  the 
motion  picture  magazine  to  the  advertiser;  the  advertising 
agency  which  got  a  15  per  cent  commission  on  the  cost  of 
the  advertising  space;  the  advertiser  and  all  the  distributive 
links  ending  with  the  drug  store  that  sold  the  stenographer 
the  vanishing  cream  (net  manufacturing  cost  eight  cents, 
retail  price  $1.00). 

But  we  are  not  through  yet.  The  exploitative  process  as 
above  outlined  runs  counter  to  the  residual  Puritanism,  both 
consumptive  and  sexual  of  the  American  middle  class,  par- 
ticularly the  middle-class  resident  in  that  section  of  America 
referred  to  in  the  shop  talk  of  the  industry  as  "the  Bible 
Belt."  The  movie  industry  is  obliged,  for  honest  commer- 
cial reasons,  to  break  down  this  Puritanism.  But  the  Puri- 
tans feel  obliged  to  organize  and  effectuate  their  sales  resist- 
ance, if  only  to  protect  their  children  from  the  corruptive 
influence  of  the  movie  industry.  They  also  feel  morally 
obliged  to  protect  the  children  and  adolescents  of  the  lower 
classes  and  prevent  them  from  enjoying  almost  the  only  kind 
of  emotional  release  which  their  economic  condition  permits 

So  censorship  movements  spring  up  here,  there  and  every- 
where, usually  sponsored  and  financed  by  the  church  groups, 
women's  clubs,  parent-teacher  organizations,  etc.,  through 
which  the  middle  class  expresses  its  view  of  the  morals,  ex- 
penditure and  conduct  appropriate  for  an  eighteen-year-old 
proletarian  typist.  These  movements  provided  jobs  and  sal- 
aries chiefly  for  preachers  without  other  "calls"  and  for 
women's  club  leaders  enjoying  more  eminence  than  income. 

Naturally,  the  industry  felt  obliged  to  defend  its  vested 


interest  in  the  exploitation  of  the  American  masses,  and  spe- 
cifically of  the  American  kiddy,  sub-flapper  and  flapper.  That 
made  more  jobs,  and  since  the  industry  was  better  organized 
and  in  a  position  to  pay  adequate  salaries  to  such  genuinely 
gifted  propagandists  as  Will  Hays,  the  industry  invariably 
won.  Mr.  Hays  makes  use  of  a  well-known  principle  of  ap- 
plied sociology  which  is  expressed  in  the  formula:  "If  you 
can't  beat  'em,  join  'em."  With  his  characteristic  evangelical 
enthusiasm,  Deacon  Hays  has  managed  in  one  way  or  an- 
other to  "join"  almost  every  movie-reform  movement  which 
has  appeared  on  the  horizon  during  his  long  tenure  of  office 
as  President  of  the  Motion  Picture  Producers  and  Distributors 
of  America,  Inc.,  popularly  known  as  the  "Hays  office." 

The  public  relations  machinery  operated  by  the  Hays  of- 
fice is  in  effect  a  two-way  system  of  diplomatic  communica- 
tion between  the  industry  and  the  various  pressure  groups 
which  represent  public  opinion  as  applied  to  the  movies. 
Since  Mr.  Hays  is  employed  by  and  responsible  to  the  industry, 
he  is  expected  to  see  that  these  pressure  groups  interfere  as 
little  as  possible  with  the  business  as  usual  of  the  movies.  But 
being  a  man  of  talent,  and  a  sociologist  of  parts,  the  good 
deacon  does  a  lot  better  than  that.  He  strives  always,  and 
often  with  notable  success,  to  induce  these  reform  groups  to 
become  propagandists  for  the  Hays  office  and  salesmen  of  the 
Hollywood  product,  to  the  end  that  the  Hays  office,  far  from 
being  merely  a  defense  against  censorship,  may  become  a 
positive  and  useful  sales  promotion  department  for  the 
industry  as  a  whole.  With  this  in  view  he  has  built  up  three 
major  instrumentalities:  (i)  the  National  Board  of  Review, 
which  clears  and  effectuates  the  judgments  of  ten  organized 
pre-viewing  groups:  The  International  Federation  of  Catholic 
Alumnae,  National  Council  of  Jewish  Women,  National 
Society  of  Daughters  of  the  American  Revolution,  the  Con- 
gress of  Parents  and  Teachers,  National  Society  of  New  Eng- 
land Women,  General  Federation  of  Women's  Clubs, 


Women's  University  Club  of  Los  Angeles,  Boy  Scouts  of 
America  and  Young  Men's  Christian  Association.  Note  that 
these  are  all  middle-class  organizations,  chosen  because  it  is  in 
middle-class  pressure  groups  that  censorship  movements  origi- 
nate, although  the  bulk  of  the  industry's  income  is  derived 
from  the  lower  classes  and  lower  middle  classes.  In  other  words 
representatives  of  the  ruling  middle  and  upper  classes  are 
invited  to  pass  on  what  movies  the  masses  are  permitted  to 

(2)  The  local  Motion  Picture  Councils,  Better  Film  Com- 
mittees,  etc.,   consisting   usually   of   club   women,    church 
women  and  local  parent-teacher  groups  organized  to  deal 
with  the  12,000  "neighborhood  theatre  situations"  into  which 
Mr.  Hays  breaks  down  his  field  organization  problem.  In 
3,000  of  these  "situations"  there  is  today  a  public  group  of 
some  kind  working  with  the  theatre  manager,  and  the  mem- 
bership of  these  groups  is  somewhere  between   50,000  and 

(3)  The    Studio    Relations    Committee    in    Hollywood, 
which  digests  and  clears  the  data  coming  in  from  the  field, 
determines  broad  lines  of  production  policy  as  it  is  affected 
by  the  organized  opinion  of  these  groups,  and  enables  each 
producer  to  learn  from  the  mistakes  of  the  others. 

Now  watch  what  happens  when  this  machinery  goes  into 
action.  Some  of  these  pre- viewing  groups  pass  some  pictures; 
others  pass  other  pictures.  In  the  end  most  'of  the  pictures 
are  likely  to  be  passed  by  some  one  of  the  groups.  This  per- 
mits Dr.  Hays  to  announce  in  his  annual  report  for  1932  that 
of  476  feature  films  reviewed  by  seven  committees  413 
(86.7%)  were  "variously  endorsed  for  family,  adult  and 
child  entertainment  ...  by  one  or  more  of  these  commit- 
tees." There  we  have  not  merely  censorship  reduced  to  in- 
nocuity,  but  a  positive  testimonial  asset  which  the  Hays 
office  duly  capitalizes  by  spreading  the  glad  news  to  his  field 
organization  that  "unsophisticated  films  pay  .  .  .  more  than 

8o  per  cent  of  box-office  champions  of  last  year  also  endorsed 
in  National  Previewing  Groups  selections."  And  the  motion 
picture  committee  of  the  General  Federation  of  Women's 
Clubs  sends  out  a  statement  of  its  program  for  the  year  urg- 
ing each  local  club  committee  to  take  as  its  slogan,  "Be  Bet- 
ter Film  Buyers." 

But  this  isn't  all.  When  the  motion  picture  code  hearings 
were  held  in  Washington  a  group  of  representative  club 
women  appeared  to  protest  against  the  evil  of  double  fea- 
tures, which  the  producers  also  object  to  for  profit  reasons. 
And  when  Henry  James  Forman's  book,  Our  Movie-Made 
Children,  appeared  the  Pennsylvania  Clubwoman,  according 
to  an  article  in  the  Christian  Century,  attacked  this  popular- 
ization of  the  Payne  Fund  studies  and  the  Motion  Picture 
Research  Council  which  instigated  these  studies. 

So  that  a  neutral  layman,  listening  to  the  hue  and  clamor 
about  the  movies,  finds  it  a  bit  difficult  to  determine  whether 
the  Hays  office  has  joined  the  reformers  or  the  reformers 
have  joined  the  Hays  office.  But  the  result  is  not  in  doubt. 
The  industry  has  won  every  battle  thus  far,  including  the 
battle  of  Washington  at  which  the  motion  picture  code  was 
signed.  In  this  code  the  industry  got  practically  everything  it 
asked  for,  including  an  undisturbed  continuance  of  the  blind 
booking  and  block  booking  practices  by  which  the  big  pro- 
ducers are  enabled  to  ensure  a  part  of  their  market  in  advance 
of  production.  What  did  the  reformers  get?  They  got  Presi- 
dent-Emeritus Abbott  Lawrence  Lowell,  of  Sacco  and  Vanzetti 
fame,  sitting  on  a  committee  with  Eddie  Cantor  and  Marie 
Dressier  to  safeguard  the  morality  of  the  movies  and  the 
interests  of  the  artists.  This  was  supposed  not  to  be  funny, 
but  Dr.  Lowell  couldn't  see  it  that  way  and  resigned.  Dr. 
Lowell  is  now  president  of  the  Motion  Picture  Research  Coun- 
cil, which  instigated  the  Payne  Fund  studies  of  the  effects 
of  the  motion  pictures  upon  children,  and  that  was  also  a 
serious  matter. 


Prior  to  the  Payne  Fund  studies,  the  reform  of  the  motion 
picture  had  been  almost  the  exclusive  province  of  preachers, 
club  women,  parent-teachers,  Y.  M.  C.  A.  secretaries,  Scout 
Masters,  etc.  Naturally  the  sociologists,  educators,  psycholo- 
gists and  other  academic  savants  wanted  in;  there  was  a  con- 
siderable overproduction  of  social  scientists  during  the  late 
New  Era,  and  the  universities  and  colleges  were  not  able  to 
absorb  the  surplus.  Moreover,  the  Great  Movie  Argument, 
what  with  one  thing  and  another,  and  especially  Will  Hays, 
had  become  loud,  raucous  and  most  unscientific.  It  was  clearly 
up  to  the  social  scientists  to  Establish  the  Facts. 

The  Facts,  as  determined  by  eighteen  assorted  sociologists, 
psychologists  and  educators,  are  set  forth  in  nine  volumes 
published  by  Macmillan,  and  are  also  summarized  and  popu- 
larized in  a  book  by  Henry  James  Forman  entitled  Our 
Movie-Made  Children.  It  took  four  years  to  dig  up  the  Facts, 
which,  however,  turned  out  to  be  pretty  much  what  every- 
body knew  all  the  time:  that  children  who  attend  the  movies 
frequently  are  likely  to  be  stupider  than  children  who  don't 
go  to  the  movies  at  all  (this  is  also  probably  true  of  adults)  ; 
that  very  young  children  are  frequently  shocked  and  nerv- 
ously injured  by  horror  pictures;  that  the  movies  not  only 
reflect  our  changing  sexual  mores  but  also  affect  them — girls 
learn  about  men  from  John  Gilbert  and  Clark  Gable;  boys 
learn  about  women  from  Clara  Bow  and  Greta  Garbo.  Life 
then  proceeds  to  imitate  the  art  and  pseudoart  of  the  movies, 
in  respect  both  to  sex  and  to  other  aspects  of  conduct.  Other 
findings  were  that  children  do  learn  from  the  movies  and 
retain  much  of  what  they  learn;  that  the  movies  constitute 
in  effect  an  independent,  profit-motivated  educational  ap- 
paratus rivalling  and  sometimes  surpassing  in  influence  the 
home  and  the  school;  that  the  movies  can  be  and  are  used  as 
propaganda  for  and  against  war,  for  and  against  different 
racial  groups;  that  gangster  pictures,  with  or  without  moral 
endings,  tend  to  teach  gangsterism. 


Although  the  investigators  made  much  pother  about  the 
"objective"  "scientific"  nature  of  this  fact-finding  study, 
they  could  scarcely  escape  value  judgments,  and  Mr.  Forman 
frankly  applies  such  judgments  in  his  popularization.  They 
are  middle-class  value  judgments,  derived  from  the  con- 
ventional mores  of  the  middle-class  community,  and  applied 
to  an  industry  which  is  organized  to  serve  not  the  classes, 
but  the  masses.  These  value  judgments  crop  out  when 
Cecil  De  Mille's  ineffable  "King  of  Kings"  is  cited  as  a  "good" 
picture,  and  when  Mr.  Forman  quotes  the  testimony  of  high 
school  and  college  youngsters,  asked  to  describe  what  effect 
the  movies  had  on  their  lives.  A  college  boy  remarks  sensibly 
enough : 

The  technique  of  making  love  to  a  girl  received  considerable  of 
my  attention  .  .  .  and  it  was  directly  through  the  movies  that  I 
learned  to  kiss  a  girl  on  her  ears,  neck  and  cheeks,  as  well  as  on  the 

The  implication  is  clear  that  such  techniques  are  highly 
reprehensible,  whereas  on  purely  objective  grounds  there 
would  appear  to  be  something  to  be  said  for  them. 

But  what  the  Payne  Fund  investigators  didn't  find  is  almost 
more  interesting  than  what  they  did  find.  For  instance,  they 
failed  to  remark  the  role  of  the  movie  as  commercial  prop- 
aganda in  promoting  the  enterprise  of  the  advertiser.  The 
consistent  class  bias  of  the  movies  also  escaped  attention  al- 
though it  is  apparent  enough  both  in  the  news  reels  and  in 
the  feature  pictures.  During  the  1932  Communist-led  Hun- 
ger March  on  Washington  the  newsreels  were  even  more 
unfair  than  the  press  in  deriding  and  misrepresenting  the 
marchers.  And  who  ever  saw  an  American  movie  featuring 
as  hero  a  successful  strike  leader? 

As  one  of  our  three  major  instruments  of  social  communica- 
tion, the  movie  is  an  instrument  of  rule.  Naturally,  in  a 


business-ruled  society,  the  movie  serves  the  propaganda  re- 
quirements of  business,  both  as  to  commerce  and  politics. 
Why  did  the  industry  get  what  it  wanted  and  the  reformers 
get  nothing  when  the  movie  code  was  signed?  Isn't  it  pos- 
sible that  the  administration  felt  that  it  needed  the  good-will 
of  the  industry  in  order  to  stay  in  office? 

Dr.  W.  W.  Charters,  director  of  the  four-year  study  fi- 
nanced by  the  Payne  Fund,  remarks  in  his  introduction  to 
Mr.  Forman's  volume:  "the  commercial  movies  present  a 
critical  and  complicated  situation  in  which  the  whole-hearted 
and  sincere  co-operation  of  the  producers  with  parents  and 
public  is  essential  to  discover  how  to  use  motion  pictures  to 
the  best  advantage  of  children." 

One  is  tempted  to  ask  "What  parents  and  what  public?" 
The  middle-class,  more  or  less  religious,  more  or  less  Puritan 
parents  would  doubtless  like  a  good  deal  less  frank  sex  in 
the  movies,  more  "education"  and  more  "wholesome"  ro- 
mance of  the  Ladies'  Home  Journal  variety.  But  the  younger 
generation  of  the  great  cities  might  be  expected  to  assert, 
with  some  justice,  that  there  is  both  more  art  and  more 
health  in  the  sex  movie  at  its  worst  than  in  the  average 
woman's  magazine  romance.  There  would  probably  be  equally 
violent  disagreement  concerning  other  varieties  of  social  con- 
tent. The  radical  labor  movement,  if  it  were  strong  enough 
to  have  an  effective  voice  in  the  reform  of  the  movies,  would 
presumably  demand  that  the  producers  stop  using  news  reels 
and  feature  pictures  as  anti-labor  propaganda,  and  even  give 
them  an  occasional  picture  with  a  strike  leader  as  hero.  One 
doubts  that  the  middle-class  reform  groups  would  either 
make  or  support  such  a  demand. 

The  dilemma,  which  would  have  become  apparent  if,  as 
originally  planned,  a  competent  and  sufficiently  unorthodox 
economist  had  been  included  in  the  group  that  made  the 
Payne  Fund  study,  is  that  the  movie  industry  represents  Big 
Business  operating  in  a  cultural  field,  but  for  purely  com- 


mercial  purposes.  The  industry  will  co-operate  "whole- 
heartedly and  sincerely"  with  anybody  and  everybody  for  the 
good  of  the  industry  as  determined  by  box  office  receipts. 
Pressure  groups,  whether  middle-class  or  proletarian,  which 
would  like  to  see  a  different  set  of  value  judgments,  will  in 
the  end,  one  suspects,  be  obliged  to  shoot  their  own  movies 
and  build  their  own  audiences. 

No  mention  has  been  made  of  the  use  of  the  movie  for 
direct  advertising  purposes.  The  "sponsored"  movie — a  more 
or  less  entertaining  short  subject,  advertising  a  commercial 
product  or  service  and  introduced  into  a  regular  program — 
was  tentatively  tried  out  in  1929  and  1930.  The  idea  was  to 
sell  the  advertiser  a  given  run  of  his  sponsored  short  in  chain 
theatres.  The  theatres  "owned"  their  audiences,  or  thought 
they  did,  and  would  have  been  glad  to  sell  the  "fans"  at  so 
much  a  head  to  the  advertisers.  But  the  audiences  proved 
restive  and  the  idea  was  pretty  much  abandoned.  A  certain 
modicum  of  two-timing  is  observable  in  the  current  run  of 
pictures,  but  it  ordinarily  takes  the  form  of  propaganda 
rather  than  of  advertising.  The  industry  frequently  needs  to 
use  the  paraphernalia  of  the  army  and  the  navy.  It  is  therefore 
good  business  to  permit  a  percentage  of  army  and  navy  prop- 
aganda in  the  pictures.  As  for  the  use  of  the  pictures  and  en- 
dorsements of  movie  stars  in  advertising,  that  is  merely  a 
by-product  of  the  industry  and  a  part  of  its  promotion  tech- 
nique. Whether  or  not  the  public  credits  the  sincerity  of  these 
endorsements  is  unimportant;  they  sell  goods  and  they  advertise 
the  star. 





RADIO  broadcasting  came  into  the  world  like  a  lost  child 
born  too  soon  and  bearing  the  birthmark  of  a  world  culture 
which  may  never  be  achieved. 

Her  begetters,  the  physicists  and  engineers,  didn't  know 
what  to  make  of  the  creature.  That  she  was  wistful  for  a 
world  not  yet  born  did  not  occur  to  them.  Indeed  her  be- 
getting was  in  a  sense  accidental.  They  had  been  thinking  of 
something  else.  And  as  for  bringing  her  up,  that  was  scarcely 
their  affair.  Men  of  science  are  notoriously  neglectful  of  their 
technical  progeny.  Observing  this  neglect  an  American  his- 
torian, Vernon  Parrington,  was  moved  to  remark  that  "science 
has  become  the  drab  and  slut  of  industry." 

Radio  had  to  belong  to  somebody.  She  couldn't  belong  to 
nobody.  So  one  day  Business  picked  her  up  off  the  street  and 
put  her  to  work  selling  gargles,  and  gadgets,  toothpaste  and 
stocks  and  bonds.  What  else  could  have  happened?  Neither 
art  nor  education  had  the  prestige  or  the  resources  to  com- 
mand the  services  of  this  new  instrument  of  communication, 
even  if  they  had  had  anything  important  to  communicate, 
which  may  be  doubted.  Government?  But  in  America  gov- 
ernment was  business  and  business  was  government  to  a  far 
greater  degree  than  in  any  other  country.  So  that  the  de- 
velopment of  the  "art  and  science  of  radio  broadcasting" 
became  in  America  a  business  enterprise,  instead  of  a  govern- 
ment monopoly  as  in  England  and  elsewhere  in  Europe. 


About  two  years  ago,  Dr.  Lee  De  Forest,  one  of  the  pio- 
jieers  of  electronic  science,  and  by  general  concession  one  of 
trie  begetters  of  radio,  encountered  the  lost  child  in  his  travels 
and  was  inexpressibly  shocked: 

"Why  should  any  one  want  to  buy  a  radio  or  new  tubes  for  an 
old  set?"  declaimed  the  irate  inventor,  "when  nine-tenths  of  what 
one  can  hear  is  the  continual  drivel  of  second-rate  jazz,  sickening 
crooning  by  degenerate  sax  players,  interrupted  by  blatant  sales 
talk,  meaningless  but  maddening  station  announcements,  impudent 
•commands  to  buy  or  try,  actually  imposed  over  a  background  of 
what  might  alone  have  been  good  music?  Get  out  into  the  sticks, 
away  from  your  fine  symphony  orchestra  pickups,  and  listen  for 
twenty-four  hours  to  what  eighty  per  cent  of  American  listeners 
have  to  endure!  Then  you'll  learn  what  is  wrong  with  the  radio 
industry.  It  isn't  hard  times.  It  is  broadcasters'  greed — which  is 
worse.  The  radio  public  simply  isn't  listening  in." 

One  wonders  why  Dr.  De  Forest  should  have  been  so  sur- 
prised to  encounter  this  Bedlam  on  the  air.  Surely  he  was 
familiar  with  its  terrestrial  equivalent.  At  the  moment,  in 
fact  he  was  engaged  in  fighting  the  Radio  Corporation  of 
America  in  the  courts. 

The  vulgarity  and  commercial  irresponsibility  of  advertis- 
ing-supported broadcasting  have  been  greatly  complained 
about.  Yet  there  is  a  sense  in  which  the  defenders  of  the 
American  system  of  broadcasting  are  right.  Radio  is  a  new 
instrument  of  social  communication — that  and  nothing  more. 
In  and  of  itself  it  contributed  nothing  qualitative  to  the 
culture.  It  was  right,  perhaps,  or  at  least  inevitable  that  it 
should  communicate  precisely  the  pseudoculture  that  we 
had  evolved.  Can  any  one  deny  that  it  did  just  that?  The 
culture,  or  pseudoculture,  was  acquisitive,  emulative,  neurotic 
and  disintegrating.  Our  radio  culture  is  acquisitive,  emulative, 
neurotic  and  disintegrating.  The  ether  has  become  a  great 


mirror  in  which  the  social  and  cultural  anomalies  of  our 
"ad-man's  civilization"  are  grotesquely  magnified.  The  con- 
fusion of  voices  out  of  the  air  merely  echoes  our  terrestrial 

This  confusion  becomes  particularly  apparent  when  at- 
tempts are  made  to  challenge  exploitation  of  radio  by  busi- 
ness. In  the  van  of  such  attacks  are  the  educators,  marching 
under  the  banner  of  "freedom"  and  "culture"  and  invoking 
such  obsolete  political  concepts  as  "States'  Rights."  Allied 
with  the  educators  is  the  Fourth  Estate.  The  appeal  is  to 
"public  opinion,"  expressed  and  made  effective  through  the 
machinery  of  representative  government  in  a  political  de- 
mocracy where  one  man's  vote  is  as  good  as  another's.  But 
we  have  already  had  occasion  to  examine  the  status  of  the 
Fourth  Estate  and  of  Education  in  our  civilization.  The  press 
is  essentially  an  advertising  business  and  as  such  a  part  of  the 
central  acquisitive  drive  of  the  culture.  Education  is  a  formal, 
traditional  function  which  becomes  increasingly  peripheral, 
decorative  and  sterile  when  it  adheres  to  its  ideals  of  disin- 
terested "objectivity"  and  increasingly  pragmatic  and  voca- 
tional when  it  attempts  to  relate  itself  to  the  acquisitive  real- 
ities of  business  as  usual.  The  press  has  a  vested  interest  both 
in  the  purveying  of  news  and  as  a  medium  of  advertising; 
commercial  broadcasting  chiselled  into  the  advertising  in- 
come of  the  press  and  latterly  began  to  compete  in  the  field 
of  news  purveying.  Hence  the  interest  of  the  press  in  "re- 
forming" the  radio  was  strictly  competitive  and  pecuniary 
in  quality  although,  of  course,  the  appeal  to  public  opinion 
was  not  made  in  those  terms.  It  may  fairly  be  alleged  that 
the  interest  of  the  educators  was  also,  and  not  improperly,  a 
job-holding  and  job-wanting  interest,  although  again  the 
appeal  to  public  opinion  was  not  made  in  those  terms.  As 
for  the  artists,  the  writers,  poets,  dramatists  and  critics,  who 
might  claim  a  modicum  of  service  from  Radio — well,  art 
is  scarcely  an  organized  and  independent  estate  in  an  acquisi- 


tive  society.  The  artists  tend  either  to  accept  service  as  the 
cultural  lieutenants  of  business,  to  retreat  into  ivory  towers 
or  to  become  frank  revolutionaries  claiming  allegiance  to  a 
hypothetical  future  "classless  culture"  and  to  the  "militant 
working  class"  also  more  or  less  hypothetical  at  the  present 
stage  of  the  social  process. 

The  American  system  is  quantitatively  successful  as  judged 
by  the  rapid  extension  of  service — some  kind  of  service — to 
about  1 5 ,000,000  American  homes.  Today  the  potential  radio 
audience  numbers  over  60,000,000.  In  less  than  twelve  years 
radio  has  become  a  cultural  indispensable  and  has  introduced 
important  new  factors  into  the  social  and  political  process. 

The  bill  for  this  service  is  paid  first  by  the  set  owners.  Mr. 
H.  O.  Davis  of  the  Ventura  Free  Press  estimates  the  annual 
amount  of  this  bill,  covering  the  cost  of  power,  new  tubes, 
repairs  and  replacements  of  radio  sets,  at  $300,000,000.  The 
same  authority  estimates  that  the  maximum  annual  expendi- 
tures of  all  broadcasting  stations  and  networks,  including 
the  operation  of  enormously  expensive  advertising  sales  de- 
partments, is  not  more  than  $80,000,000  and  that  $50,000,000 
covers  the  total  expense  for  the  actual  production  and  trans- 
mission of  all  programs. 

The  estimates  are  based  on  the  technical  and  economic 
status  quo  of  the  "art  and  science  of  radio"  as  developed  by 
business.  Mr.  Davis  undertook  a  reconnaissance  study  of  this 
status  quo,  which  took  the  form  of  an  analysis  of  a  typical 
day's  output  transmitted  to  the  listening  public  by  206 
American  broadcasting  stations.  The  following  is  quoted 
from  his  summarized  findings: 

The  average  number  of  interruptions  for  sales  talk  during  a 
total  of  2365  hours  of  broadcasting,  sustaining  programs  included, 
was  5.28  per  hour  per  station. 

The  average  number  of  interruptions  for  sales  talks  during  119? 
program-hours  sponsored  by  advertisers  was  9.36  per  hour.  (In- 


terruptions  for   station  announcements  are  not  included  in  these 

On  1195  hours  of  programs  sponsored  by  advertisers  the  sales 
talks  consumed  174.7  hours,  or  14.61  per  cent  of  the  total  pro- 
gram time,  almost  three  times  the  maximum  permitted  on  Canadian 

The  number  of  "spot  ads,"  sales  talks  unaccompanied  by  enter- 
tainment supplied  by  the  advertiser,  totaled  5092  and  consumed 
57  hours.  Canada  prohibits  the  broadcasting  of  "spot  ads." 

Out  of  a  total  of  2365  broadcasting  hours  789  hours,  or  32.26 
per  cent,  were  consumed  by  the  playing  of  phonograph  records. 
"Electrical  transcriptions" — specially  made  records — consumed  30 
hours  or  4.82  per  cent  of  the  total  broadcasting  time. 

A  little  more  than  75  per  cent  of  the  entire  number  of  hours 
was  devoted  to  music  of  some  kind. 

All  musical  programs  consumed  1845  hours. 

On  the  day  of  the  survey  the  206  stations  under  observation 
broadcast  9%  hours  of  symphony-orchestra  music,  devoting  .6  per 
cent  of  the  total  music  time  to  this  type  of  entertainment.  The 
same  number  of  hours  was  filled  by  the  output  of  so-called  haywire 
or  hill-billy  orchestras. 

Dance  orchestras,  on  the  other  hand,  filled  388  hours  or  21  per 
cent  of  the  total  music-time  with  jazz. 

Other  instrumental  and  vocal  music  of  the  popular  variety, 
crooners  included,  occupied  1219  hours,  two-thirds  of  the  total 

From  the  quantitative  standpoint  vaudeville  is  next  in  importance 
to  music.  It  occupies  almost  half  of  the  time  not  given  over  to 
music.  Vaudeville  includes  reviews,  jinks,  dramatic  sketches,  jam- 
borees and  similar  mixtures  of  entertainment. 

The  third  largest  portion  of  all  broadcasting  time  is  taken  up  by 
sales  talks  of  advertisers,  which  consume  8.5  per  cent  of  all  time 
on  the  air,  including  both  sponsored  and  sustaining  time.  In  fact, 
commercial  sales  talks  consume  as  much  of  the  broadcasting  time 
as  all  news  broadcasts,  all  religious  and  political  addresses  and  two- 
thirds  of  the  lectures  put  together.  .  .  . 

On  a  typical  day  the  average  station  will  devote  three-quarters 


of  its  programs  to  some  kind  of  musical  presentation,  but  the  high- 
est class  of  symphony-orchestra  music  will  be  heard  during  one-half 
of  one  per  cent  of  the  total  music  time.  And  when  music  is  on 
the  air,  four  programs  out  of  ten  will  consist  of  the  playing  of 
phonograph  records.  More  than  five  times  every  hour  the  pro- 
gram will  be  interrupted  for  the  delivery  of  a  sales  talk  lasting  in 
excess  of  one  minute.  In  addition  there  will  also  be  four  breaks  per 
hour  in  the  program  continuity  for  station  announcements,  making 
a  total  of  nine  interruptions  per  hour. 

The  reader,  who  is  also  probably  a  radio  listener,  will  be 
able  to  dub  in  the  sounds  that  go  with  this  statistical  picture: 
the  bedlamite  exhortations  and  ecstacies,  the  moronic  coquet- 
ries and  wise-cracks,  the  degenerate  jazz  rhythms,  punctu- 
ated by  the  ironic  blats  and  squeals  of  a  demon  from  the  outer 
void  known  as  "Static."  An  evening  spent  twiddling  the  dials 
of  a  radio  set  is  indeed  a  profoundly  educational  experience 
for  any  student  of  the  culture.  America  is  too  big  to  see 
itself.  But  radio  has  enabled  America  to  hear  itself,  and  what 
we  hear,  if  closely  attended  to,  supplies  important  clues  to  the 
present  state  of  the  culture. 

When  we  turn  to  the  educators  who  have  struggled  for 
the  uplift  of  radio  what  we  find  is  merely  further  proof  of 
the  cultural  disintegration  which  radio  makes  audible.  It  may 
be  said  without  serious  exaggeration  that  the  problem  of  the 
controlling  and  administering  of  radio  broadcasting  is  ap- 
proximately coextensive  with  the  problem  of  controlling  the 
modern  world  in  the  economic  and  cultural  interests  of  the 
people  who  inhabit  it.  Granted  that  the  radio  is  socially  and 
culturally  one  of  the  most  revolutionary  additions  to  the 
pool  of  human  resources  in  all  history — how  does  one  go  about 
integrating  it  with  a  civilization  which  itself  functions  with 
increasing  difficulty  and  precariousness?  Radio  is  potentially, 
even  to  a  degree  actually,  an  instrument  of  world  communi- 
cation. But  the  interests  of  the  world  population  divide  along 


racial,  national  and  class  lines.  If  these  terrestrial  conflicts 
could  be  reconciled,  presumably  we  should  have  harmony  on 
the  air — even  conceivably  the  communication  of  a  world  cul- 
ture. As  it  is,  the  great  mirror  of  the  other  not  only  reflects 
the  conflicts  of  class  and  nation  and  race,  but  serves  to  ex- 
pand the  scale  and  increase  the  intensity  of  these  conflicts. 

An  adequate  study  of  these  conflicts,  as  they  are  reflected  in 
the  current  struggle  for  control  of  the  microphone,  would 
require  a  book  in  itself.  We  have  space  here  only  for  a  brief 
description  of  what  happens  when  education  and  the  arts  en- 
counter business-as-usual  as  represented  by  the  "American 
system  of  broadcasting." 

The  records  of  the  Federal  Radio  Commission  show  that  in 
May,  1927,  when  the  present  radio  law  went  into  effect,  there 
was  a  total  of  94  educational  institutions  licensed  to  broad- 
cast. By  March,  1931,  the  number  had  been  reduced  to  49. 
According  to  the  National  Committee  on  Education  by  Radio, 
23  educational  broadcasting  stations  were  forced  to  close  their 
doors  between  January  i  and  August  i,  1930.  At  present, 
out  of  a  total  of  400  units  available  to  the  United  States, 
educational  stations  occupy  only  23.16  units,  or  one-sixteenth 
of  the  available  frequencies.  In  short,  educators  and  educa- 
tional institutions  which  desire  to  make  independent  use  of 
the  radio  as  an  educational  instrumentality  are  facing  strangu- 
lation. They  must  either  fight  or  acquiesce  in  the  present 
trend,  which,  if  continued,  will  give  the  commercial  broad- 
casters complete  control  of  the  air — the  educators  being  in- 
vited to  feed  the  Great  Radio  Audience  such  education  as  the 
commercial  stations  consider  worth  broadcasting,  at  hours 
which  do  not  conflict  with  the  vested  interests  of  tooth- 
pastes and  automobile  tires  or  with  the  careers  of  such  estab- 
lished radio  personalities  as  Amos  Jn'  Andy,  Phil  Cook  and 
Lady  Esther. 

The  militant  wing  of  the  educators  has  chosen  to  fight 
and  was  organized  as  the  National  Committee  for  Education 


by  Radio.  Represented  on  the  committee  are  the  National 
Education  Association,  the  National  Council  of  State  Super- 
intendents, the  National  Association  of  State  Universities, 
the  Association  of  College  and  University  Broadcasting  Sta- 
tions, the  National  University  Extension  Association,  the 
National  Catholic  Educational  Association,  the  American 
Council  on  Education,  the  Jesuit  Education  Association  and 
the  Association  of  Land  Grant  Colleges  and  Universities.  Joy 
Elmer  Morgan,  editor  of  the  Journal  of  the  National  Educa- 
tion, is  chairman  of  this  committee.  Its  work  is  financed  by 
the  Payne  Fund. 

Let  us  turn  now  to  the  battalions  of  the  opposition  by 
which  these  educational  militants  are  confronted.  On  June 
i,  1931,  there  were  in  the  United  States  609  licensed  stations 
divided  in  a  ratio  of  one  to  sixteen  between  the  education 
and  the  commercial  broadcasters.  The  strongest  of  the  latter 
group  are  affiliated  in  two  great  chains  with  the  National 
Broadcasting  Company  and  the  Columbia  Broadcasting  Com- 
pany. N.  B.  C.  is  a  one-hundred  per  cent  owned  subsidiary 
of  the  Radio  Corporation  of  America,  which  manufactures 
radio  equipment  and  pools  the  patents  of  General  Electric, 
Westinghouse  and  American  Telephone  and  Telegraph.  Ob- 
viously the  educational  militants  are  facing  a  closely  affiliated 
group  representing  the  dominant  power  and  communications 
interests  of  America.  N.  B.  C.  and  Columbia  represent  big 
business,  and  what  does  big  business  care  for  education  and 
culture?  But  big  business  cares  a  great  deal,  insist  the  com- 
mercial broadcasters,  citing  their  cultural  sustaining  programs 
and  their  repeated  offers  of  free  time  on  the  air  to  educators. 
There  is,  in  fact,  a  group  of  educators  who  have  accepted  the 
existing  commercial  set-up  of  broadcasting  to  the  extent  at 
least  of  working  with  it  and  through  it.  They  too  are  or- 
ganized. The  National  Advisory  Council  on  Radio  in  Educa- 
tion is  financed  jointly  by  John  D.  Rockefeller  Jr.  and  the 
Carnegie  Corporation.  Its  president  is  Dr.  Robert  A.  Millikan 


and  its  vice  president  is  Dr.  Livingston  Farrand,  President  of 
Cornell  University. 

Two  years  ago  the  educational  militants  were  engaged  in 
propaganda  for  the  Fess  Bill,  which  would  have  assigned  15 
per  cent  of  the  broadcast  band  to  educational  broadcasting  by 
educational  stations.  Latterly  they  have  turned  more  and 
more  to  the  demand  for  congressional  investigation  of  radio 
with  the  hope  that  a  congressional  committee  would  recom- 
mend government  ownership  and  operation  of  radio  facilities 
as  in  England  and  more  recently  in  Canada.  The  conservatives, 
as  represented  by  the  National  Council  on  Radio  in  Education, 
abstain  entirely  from  political  propaganda  and  lobbying.  The 
objectives  of  the  council,  as  stated  in  its  constitution,  em- 
phasize fact-finding  and  fact-dissemination;  it  undertakes  to 
"mobilize  the  best  educational  thought  of  the  country  to  de- 
vise, develop  and  sponsor  suitable  programs,  to  be  brought 
into  fruitful  contact  with  the  most  appropriate  facilities  in 
order  that  eventually  the  council  may  be  recognized  as  the 
mouthpiece  of  American  education  in  respect  to  educational 
broadcasting."  Officially  it  still  suspends  judgment  on  the 
question  of  private  versus  public  ownership  and  operation  of 
broadcasting  facilities,  remarking  that,  "as  yet  no  one  is  pre- 
pared or  competent  to  say  whether  or  not  this  [the  announced 
educational  program  of  the  council]  will  eventually  force  the 
council  to  discuss  the  mechanisms  necessary  for  educational 
broadcasting  and  whether  their  ownership  should  be  in  com- 
mercial hands,  in  the  hands  of  educational  institutions,  or  in 
the  hands  of  non-profit  co-operative  federations,  or  perhaps  in 
all."  That  statement  was  written  four  years  ago  and  the  coun- 
cil is  still  busy  "finding  the  facts"  by  rigorously  "objective" 
scientific  procedures,  meanwhile  sponsoring  politically  innocu- 
ous educational  broadcasts  on  free  time  contributed  by  the 
commercial  chains. 

In  May,  1933,  the  National  Council  on  Radio  in  Education 
held  its  annual  assembly.  The  Director  of  the  Council,  Mr. 

Levering  Tyson,  delivered  a  report  discussing  various  activi- 
ties in  broadcasting,  research  and  publication  and  urged  the 
establishment  of  a  National  Radio  Institute.  The  writer  par- 
ticipated in  the  discussion  of  this  report  and  of  the  prepared 
speeches  which  followed  it,  which  are  published  in  Kadio  in 
Education,  1933.  I  was  frankly  puzzled  by  the  attitude  of 
the  educators  as  revealed  at  this  conference. 

In  this  view  business,  including  the  business  of  selling  tooth- 
pastes, laxatives,  stocks  and  bonds,  etc.,  by  radio  is  assumed 
not  to  be  educative.  The  advertisers'  sales  talks  (doctrinal 
memoranda  in  the  Veblenian  terminology)  and  the  jazz, 
vaudeville  and  other  entertainment  by  which  they  are  made 
more  palatable — all  this  is  assumed  not  to  be  educative.  But 
obviously  this  business  expresses  the  central  acquisitive  drive 
of  the  culture.  Obviously  it  influences  the  lives  of  the  radio 
listeners  infinitely  more  than  the  relatively  microscopic 
amount  of  "education"  which  the  council  had  been  able  to 
put  on  the  air — more  in  all  probability  than  the  total  out- 
put of  American  class  rooms  and  lecture  platforms.  Yet,  by 
definition,  it  is  not  "education,"  which  is  conceived  of  as  a 
meliorative  something  added  to  a  secular  process  which  may 
be  profoundly  diseducational  in  that  it  contradicts  and  op- 
poses at  practically  every  point  the  attitudes  and  ideals  of  the 

In  arguing  for  a  more  realistic  and  more  vital  conception  of 
the  educational  function  the  writer  pointed  out  that  the  end 
result  of  American  commercial  broadcasting,  as  we  have  it,  is 
demonstrably  diseducational;  that  radio  advertisers  are  not 
interested  in  educating  the  great  radio  audience  in  any  true 
sense.  What  really  happens  is  that  the  advertisers  are  in- 
terested solely  in  promoting  the  sale  of  products  and  services. 
Hence  they  tend  to  exploit  the  cultural  inadequacies  of  the 
radio  audience  and  its  moral,  ethical  and  psychological  help- 

At  this  meeting,  Mr.  Henry  Adams  Bellows,  LL.D.,  vice 


president  of  the  Columbia  Broadcasting  Company,  made  the 
usual  formal  offer  of  free  time  on  the  air  to  the  assembled 
educators.  At  the  moment  it  happened  that  a  group  of  Corr 
munist  -fellow-travelers,"  organized  as  the  League  of  Pro- 
fessional Groups,  was  conducting  a  series  of  public  lectures 
under  the  general  title  "Culture  and  Capitalism." 
ices  of  this  group,  which  included  some  well-known  teach- 
ers and  writers,  were  offered  without  charge  to  Mr.  Bellows 
but,  as  might  have  been  expected,  these  radicals  clamored  i 
vain  for  "the  freedom  of  the  air." 

The  issue  of  censorship  was  again  raised  at  this  meeting 
after  Mr.  Hector  Charlesworth,  chairman  of  the  Canadian 
Broadcasting  Commission,  had  declared  that  Communists  and 
communist  sympathizers  were  permitted  on  the  air  in  Can- 
ada. The  position  of  the  American  commercial  broadcasters, 
as  stated  repeatedly  by  Mr.  Bellows  and  others,  is  that  the 
American  system  provides  more  effective  freedom  for  minor- 
ity groups  than  the  system  of  government  ownership  as  oper- 
ated in  England  and  in  a  more  modified  form  in  Canada.  The 
contention,  of  course,  finds  little  support  in  the  experience 
of  Communists  and  others  who  recurrently  make  application 
in  vain  to  the  educational  directors  of  the  major  chains. 

It  is  difficult  to  write  about  the  problem  of  radio  censor- 
ship since  all  our  eighteenth  century  concepts  of  "freedom" 
are  quite  evidently  made  obsolete  by  the  technical  nature  of 
the  instrumentality.  Some  form  of  censorship  and  some  form 
of  international  control  is  necessary.  The  domestic  problem  is 
simplified  under  a  political  dictatorship.  Both  Mussolini  and 
Hitler  promptly  seized  complete  control  of  radio  upon  as- 
suming power  and  used  it  to  consolidate  and  extend  their 
rule.  At  the  moment  Hitler's  use  of  radio,  which  knows  no 
political  boundaries,  is  perhaps  his  strongest  weapon  in  his 
struggle  to  bring  Austria  under  the  Nazi  hegemony.  It  is 
safe  to  predict  that  in  the  next  great  war,  radio  will  constitute 

a  major  offensive  weapon,  second  only  in  effectiveness  to  the 

Meanwhile,  in  America,  the  confusion  brought  about  by 
our  various  and  sundry  forms  of  censorship,  both  overt  and 
concealed,  is  almost  indescribable.  Miss  Lillian  Hurwitz,  in  a 
study  of  radio  censorship  prepared  for  the  American  Civil 
Liberties  Union,  has  no  difficulty  in  showing  that  despite  the 
prohibition  of  censorship  embodied  in  our  present  radio  law, 
The  Federal  Radio  Commission  "has  so  construed  the  stand- 
ard of  public  interest,  convenience  and  necessity  as  to  enable 
it  to  exercise  an  indirect  censorship  over  station  programs." 
The  very  assignment  and  withdrawal  of  radio  licenses  by  the 
commission  involves  an  indirect  censorship. 

Meanwhile,  as  Miss  Hurwitz  abundantly  proves,  the  sta- 
tions themselves  are  obliged  to  operate  a  systematic  censor- 
ship, if  only  to  protect  themselves  against  libel  suits.  They  go 
much  further  than  that,  of  course.  They  not  only  impose  their 
own  conception  of  the  "public  interest,  convenience  and  neces- 
sity" but  their  own  standards  of  taste,  morals  and  political 
orthodoxy.  They  protect  their  own  source  of  revenue  by 
forbidding  radio  lecturers  to  attack  radio  advertising.  When 
Mr.  F.  J.  Schlink,  director  of  Consumers'  Research,  addressed 
the  American  Academy  of  Political  and  Social  Science  on  the 
subject  of  the  New  Deal  as  it  affects  the  consumer  he  was 
cut  off  the  air  by  the  Columbia  Broadcasting  Company.  Only 
after  the  issue  was  publicly  posed  by  the  resulting  newspaper 
publicity,  was  he  permitted  a  week  later  to  make  the  same 
speech  over  Columbia  facilities. 

What  will  emerge  from  this  welter  of  technical  and  com- 
mercial necessities  and  political  make-believe  is  quite  im- 
possible to  predict.  Proposals  to  unify  all  communications 
services  under  a  single  government  control  are  now  before 
Congress  with  the  President's  endorsement.  A  non-partisan 
investigation  of  the  broadcasting  system  has  been  repeatedly 
urged  and  something  of  the  sort  is  probably  imminent. 


Meanwhile,  however,  it  should  be  pointed  out  that  a  tight- 
ened control  of  the  American  Telegraph  and  Telephone  Com- 
pany would  perhaps  put  the  government  in  a  position  to  audit 
the  wire  charges  which  constitute  a  heavy  proportion  of  the 
overhead  of  the  broadcasting  chains.  It  has  been  widely  as- 
serted that  these  charges  are  excessive;  that  both  the  techni- 
cal and  economic  problems  of  broadcasting  could  be  solved 
by  a  combination  of  "wire  and  wax."  By  "wax"  is  meant  wax 
records  which  have  been  so  perfected  that  an  electrical  tran- 
scription is  now  practically  indistinguishable  from  an  original 
studio  broadcast.  By  "wire"  is  meant  wire  chain  hookups,  the 
present  cost  of  which  is  at  present  almost  prohibitive  except 
for  the  two  major  chains.  Then  also  there  is  an  assortment 
of  more  or  less  known  technical  potentialities,  such  as  wired 
radio,  short  wave  and  micro-wave  broadcasting  and  tele- 
vision, although  the  latter,  according  to  competent  technicians, 
is  at  present  to  be  classified  as  a  stock-market  development 
rather  than  an  electronic  development.  Taken  together  these 
various  potentialities  make  impossible  any  clear  anticipation  of 
what  is  likely  to  happen.  With  this  exception  however:  the 
trend  of  both  technical  and  economic  developments  point  to 
the  need  of  centralized  control.  This  will  be  particularly  true 
if  the  Roosevelt  Administration  is  forced,  by  the  failure  of 
the  NRA  to  increase  buying  power,  to  go  left  in  the  direction 
of  a  functional  reorganization  of  distribution.  As  we  shall 
see  later,  when  we  come  to  discuss  the  NRA  program  with 
respect  to  advertising,  this  cannot  be  accomplished  without 
a  huge  deflation  of  the  advertising  business,  affecting  both  the 
press  and  the  commercial  broadcasters. 

A  significant  factor  in  the  situation  is,  of  course,  Mr. 
Roosevelt's  immensely  skillful  and  successful  use  of  radio  in 
building  public  support  for  his  administration.  On  the  whole, 
it  would  seem  only  a  matter  of  time  when  Mr.  Roosevelt,  or 
whoever  succeeds  him,  will  be  obliged  to  say  to  radio  broad- 
casting, "You're  mine!  I  need  you  to  help  me  rule!"  A  faint 

intimation  of  this  rather  probable  development  appears  in  the 
speech  of  Federal  Radio  Commissioner  Harold  A.  LaFount  at 
the  1933  Assembly  of  the  National  Council  on  Radio  in 
Education  already  referred  to.  Commissioner  LaFount  said: 

Educational  programs  could,  and  I  believe  in  the  near  future 
will,  be  broadcast  by  the  Government  itself  over  a  few  powerful 
short-wave  stations  and  rebroadcast  by  existing  stations.  This 
would  not  interfere  with  local  educational  programs,  and  would 
provide  all  broadcasters  with  the  finest  possible  sustaining  pro- 
grams. The  whole  nation  would  be  taught  by  one  teacher  instead 
of  hundreds,  and  would  be  thinking  together  on  one  subject  of 
national  importance.  Personally  I  believe  such  a  plan  would  be 
more  effective  than  a  standing  army. 

The  commissioner,  who  in  view  of  his  record,  can  scarcely 
be  accused  of  being  unfriendly  to  the  commercial  broad- 
casters, was  probably  innocent  of  dictatorial  ideas.  Yet  his 
language  is,  to  say  the  least,  suggestive. 

A  more  detailed  discussion  of  the  problem  of  radio  is  contained 
in  the  writer's  pamphlet  "Order  on  the  Air!"  published  by  the 
John  Day  Company. 





WEEKS  before  real  beer  came  back,  the  beer  gardens  sprang 
into  bloom  along  Fourteenth  Street.  They  are  cheap.  Fifteen 
cents  buys  a  roast  beef  sandwich,  a  portion  of  beans,  a  por- 
tion of  potatoes  and  a  slop  of  thin  gravy.  You  sit  at  an 
enamel  table,  look  and  listen.  Imitation  tile.  Imitation  Alps. 
Imitation  Bavarian  atmosphere.  Imitation  beer.  Three  people 
sit  at  the  next  table:  an  imitation  pimp,  an  imitation  stage 
mother  and  an  imitation  burlesque  show  manager.  Maybe  the 
burlesque  show  manager  is  real.  He  is  gray-haired,  red-faced, 
thickset  and  voluble.  He  declaims: 

"I'm  a  faker.  God  in  his  blue  canopy  above — that's  out  of 
Shakespeare — God  knows  I'm  a  faker.  When  the  priest  bap- 
tized me,  he  shook  the  holy  water  on  my  head  (snap,  snap) 
and  said:  Taker,  faker,  faker!'  " 

I  saw  that.  I  heard  that.  If  I  had  sat  there  long  enough  I 
am  confident  I  could  have  seen  and  heard  anything.  If  one 
wishes  to  discover  America,  all  one  has  to  do  is  to  forget  all 
the  solemn  and  reasonable  things  that  solemn  and  reasonable 
people  have  spoken  and  written,  and  then  go  listening  and 
pondering  into  cheap  restaurants,  movie  palaces,  radio  studios, 
pulp  magazine  offices,  police  stations,  five-  and  ten-cent 
stores,  advertising  agencies.  Out  of  this  atomic,  pulverized 
life,  the  anarchic  voices  rise.  They  are  shameless,  these  voices, 
and  truthful,  and  wise  with  a  kind  of  bleak  factual  wisdom. 
Each  atom  speaks  for  itself,  to  comfort  itself,  to  assert  itself 


against  the  overwhelming  nothingness  of  all  the  other  atoms: 
each  atom  sending  out  an  infinitesimal  ray  of  force,  search- 
ing for  some  infinite  reason,  and  protesting  obstinately  against 
some  infinite  betrayal. 

Fake.  Baloney.  Bunk.  Apple  sauce.  Bull.  There  are  over  a 
hundred  slang  synonyms  for  the  idea  which  these  words  ex- 
press, most  of  them  coined  within  the  last  two  decades.  No 
other  idea  has  called  forth  such  lavish  folk  invention,  and 
this  can  mean  only  one  thing.  It  is  the  pseudoculture's  bleak 
judgment  upon  itself.  It  is  possible  for  an  inhuman  society  to 
pulverize  humanity,  but  the  human  essence  is  indestructible. 
It  is  meek,  or  it  is  bitter;  it  remains  human,  truthful  and  es- 
sentially moral,  even  religious. 

What  is  religion,  if  it  is  not  the  framework  of  instinctively 
felt  values  of  truth  and  beauty  and  honor  by  which  the  race 
lives — if  it  is  to  live?  Reverse  these  thin  worn  coins  of  the 
folk  argot — bunk,  baloney,  etc. — and  you  find  the  true  cur- 
rency of  the  human  exchange.  Honoring  truth,  the  burlesque 
comedian  pauses  in  his  exit,  shakes  his  rear  and  says:  "Horse- 

But  what  we  are  concerned  with  here  is  not  the  deep 
human  core  of  the  religious  spirit,  but  the  make-believe 
against  which  these  atomic  voices  are  crying  out:  the  fake  re- 
ligion, the  moral,  ethical  and  spiritual  make-believe  of  the 
acquisitive  society,  of  the  ad-man's  pseudoculture.  If  the 
inquiry  were  to  be  in  any  degree  systematic  and  exhaustive, 
it  would  lead  us  far  back  in  time,  back  to  the  medieval  syn- 
thesis of  church  and  state  and  its  breakup  by  those  Knights 
Templar  of  the  rising  trading  class,  John  Calvin  and  Martin 

There  are  plenty  of  able  and  informed  advertising  men, 
and  some  of  them  know  this.  Yesterday  I  was  in  the  research 
department  of  a  large  agency  gathering  certain  statistical 
data.  A  former  associate  paused,  greeted  me  and  we  fell  into 
conversation.  Knowing  me,  he  guessed  what  I  was  doing — in 


fact  I  had  never  at  any  time  tried  to  conceal  anything — and, 
helpfully,  he  offered  his  own  explanations.  He  blamed  Martin 
Luther.  For  the  long  sequence  of  cultural  disintegration,  cli- 
maxed in  our  time  by  the  paradox  of  mass  production  and 
mass  starvation  and  by  the  development  of  the  advertising 
agency  as  a  mass  producer  of  f  akery,  human  stultification  and 
confusion,  he  blamed  Martin  Luther. 

This  man  started  life  as  a  traveling  salesman.  He  never 
went  to  college,  so  that  his  mind  remained  fresh  and  avid,  if 
cynical.  And  he  had  known  great  charlatans  in  his  time — no- 
tably Elbert  Hubbard.  He  understood  them  very  well,  and, 
being  of  a  speculative  turn,  he  had  checked  up  on  their  ori- 
gins. He  blamed  Martin  Luther.  He  was  greatly  interested 
when  I  told  him  that  the  famous  German  scholar,  Max 
Weber,  author  of  The  Protestant  Ethic,  also  blamed  Martin 
Luther  a  little,  but  John  Calvin  a  great  deal  more. 

My  friend  had  only  a  few  minutes  for  gossip,  however.  He 
had  to  get  back  to  his  desk  and  read  proof  on  a  new  tooth- 
paste campaign  in  which,  by  a  trick  of  pragmatic  self- 
hypnosis,  he  had  come  to  believe  fervently.  When  he  had 
finished  he  would  placidly  stroll  to  the  station,  buy  a  paper, 
and  solve  a  cross-word  puzzle  en  route  to  White  Plains  and 
his  comfortable  and  charming  suburban  family. 

While  somewhat  exceptional,  this  man  is  far  from  being  a 
unique  figure  in  the  business.  To  those  atomic  voices  heard 
above  the  clatter  of  dishes  in  the  Fourteenth  Street  beer  gar- 
dens, we  must  add  the  voices  of  the  speakeasy  philosophers 
of  the  Grand  Central  district — advertising  men,  many  of 
them,  college  men  and  more  or  less  self-conscious  fakers.  God 
in  his  blue  canopy  above  knows  they're  fakers,  but  it  is  per- 
haps somewhat  to  their  credit  that  they  know  it  too. 

In  discussing  religion  and  the  ad-man  we  are  not  concerned 


with  the  sales  publicity  of  the  churches.  There  are  plenty  of 
texts  on  the  subject.  What  concerns  us  is  the  extent  to  which 
the  culture  of  our  acquisitive  society,  as  represented  and 
publicized  by  the  ad-man,  has  become  a  rival  of  the  Christian 
culture,  represented  by  the  Protestant  and  Catholic  Churches 
of  the  United  States. 

Since  it  is  our  purpose  to  compare  these  two  cultures,  it 
may  be  useful  to  note  what  social  scientists  think  culture  and 
religion  are.  Culture  may  be  defined  as  the  total  social  en- 
vironment into  which  the  individual  is  born;  religion  is  a 
behavior  pattern  which  seeks  to  dominate  the  culture.  As 
sociological  phenomena,  religion,  nationalism  and  radicalism, 
although  dissimilar  in  many  respects,  are  categorically  the 
same.  The  sociologist  would  note  the  similarities  between  re- 
ligions, nationalism  and  radicalism,  by  calling  them  all  be- 
havior patterns.  The  layman  would  call  them  religions.  The 
name  is  not  important.  What  is  important  is  the  fact  that 
they  have  common  characteristics. 

Each  of  these  religions  has  an  inclusive  pattern  for  human 
life  and  society.  Each  of  them  would  prefer  to  be  dominant 
and  to  exclude  other  behavior  patterns  from  the  scene.  Wit- 
ness Russia  and  the  Christian  Churches,  or  Nazi  Germany 
and  the  Socialist  and  Communist  Parties.  As  a  practical  mat- 
ter behavior  patterns  do  succeed  in  living  side  by  side,  but 
though  the  competition  may  not  be  overt,  it  is  present. 
Every  behavior  pattern  has  to  be  sold,  more  or  less,  continu- 
ously, to  the  public.  This  is  true,  as  the  anthropologist,  Ma- 
linowski,  has  pointed  out,  even  among  primitive  peoples.  He 
says:  "The  reign  of  custom  in  a  savage  society  is  a  complex 
and  variegated  matter  just  as  it  is  in  a  more  civilized  society. 
Some  customs  are  very  lightly  broken;  others  are  regarded  as 
mandatory."  The  more  effective  techniques  used  in  selling  the 
public  a  behavior  pattern  may  be  considered  techniques  of 
rule.  Religious  rituals  belong  in  this  category;  so  do  the 
publicity  engines  of  Mussolini,  and  of  Hitler.  No  proper 


perspective  can  be  gained  in  relation  to  such  behavior  pat- 
terns as  religion,  nationalism  and  radicalism,  unless  one  real- 
izes that  they  are  highly  important  in  relation  to  group  sur- 
vival. As  Bagehot  has  said:  "Any  polity  is  more  efficient  than 
none."  But  the  more  shrewd  and  complete  the  polity,  the  more 
efficient  an  instrument  it  is  in  the  struggle  for  survival. 

There  are  certain  interesting  parallelisms  between  the  tech- 
niques of  persuasion  and  admonition  used  in  religious  rituals 
and  those  used  in  contemporary  advertising.  Jane  Harrison, 
the  distinguished  student  of  Greek  religions,  notes  that  ritual 
in  its  beginnings  has  two  elements:  the  dromenon,  something 
which  is  done,  and  the  legomenon,  something  which  is  said.  In 
the  beginning,  the  words  of  the  ritual,  according,  to  Miss 
Harrison,  may  have  consisted  of  "no  more  than  the  excited 
repetition  of  one  syllable."  The  action  of  the  ritual  is  some- 
thing that  is  "re-done,  commemorative,  or  predone,  anticipa- 
tory, and  both  elements  seem  to  go  to  its  religiousness."  The 
points  at  which  the  techniques  of  religious  ritual  and  adver- 
tising correspond  are  the  following:  In  both  instances,  there 
is  repetition.  In  both  instances  the  symbols  used  in  the  ritual, 
or  the  ad,  have  the  same  meaning  to  the  audience.  A  symbol, 
which  always  has  the  same  meaning,  is  called  by  Durkheim, 
"a  collective  representation."  A  number  of  social  scientists 
have  pointed  out  that  the  Utopias  of  the  radicals  become  com- 
prehensible if  one  realizes  that  they  serve  as  collective  repre- 
sentations. In  advertising,  the  name  of  the  product,  the 
slogan,  the  packaging  and  the  trade-mark,  are  obviously  used 
as  collective  representations. 

The  net  result  of  religious  ritual  is  to  leave  the  participants 
in  a  religious  ceremony  more  restless  than  soothed,  simmering 
gently,  or  boiling  violently  as  the  case  may  be,  in  an  im- 
pressionable, emotional  state,  which  cannot  find  complete  re- 
lease in  immediate  action.  (Note  the  ritualistic  function  of  the 
movies  already  described  as  a  want-building  adjunct  of  the 
advertising  business.)  While  the  audience  is  in  this  impression- 


able  state,  the  minister  or  priest  makes  strong  persuasive  or 
admonitory  suggestions  in  regard  to  the  action  which  the 
individual  should  take  in  the  future.  In  advertising,  the  ad- 
monitory or  persuasive  voices  of  the  priesthood  are  also 

The  close  analogy  between  the  sales  publicity  methods  of 
the  Christian  Church  and  those  of  the  modern  Church  of 
Advertising  was  noted  in  1923  by  Thorstein  Veblen,  who 
missed  little,  if  any,  of  the  comedy  of  the  American  scene. 
Veblen'slong  foot-note  (p.  319,  Absentee  Ownership)  should 
be  read  in  its  entirety  in  this  connection.  It  is  particularly 
interesting  as  showing  the  rapid  movement  of  forces  during 
the  intervening  decade. 

The  Propagation  of  the  Faith  is  quite  the  largest,  oldest,  most 
magnificent,  most  unabashed,  and  most  lucrative  enterprise  in 
sales-publicity  in  all  Christendom.  Much  is  to  be  learned  from  it 
as  regards  media  and  suitable  methods  of  approach,  as  well  as  due 
perseverance,  tact,  and  effrontery.  By  contrast,  the  many  secular 
adventures  in  salesmanship  are  no  better  than  upstarts,  raw  recruits, 
late  and  slender  capitalizations  out  of  the  ample  fund  of  human 
credulity.  It  is  only  quite  recently,  and  even  yet  only  with  a  dawn- 
ing realization  of  what  may  be  achieved  by  consummate  effrontery 
in  the  long  run,  that  these  others  are  beginning  to  take  on  any- 
thing like  the  same  air  of  stately  benevolence  and  menacing  solem- 
nity. No  pronouncement  on  rubber-heels,  soap-powders,  lip-sticks, 
or  yeast-cakes,  not  even  Sapphira  Buncombe's  Vegetative  Compound, 
are  yet  able  to  ignore  material  facts  with  the  same  magisterial  de- 
tachment, and  none  has  yet  commanded  the  same  unreasoning  assent 
or  acclamation.  None  other  has  achieved  that  pitch  of  unabated 
assurance  which  has  enabled  the  publicity-agents  of  the  Faith  to 
debar  human  reason  from  scrutinizing  their  pronouncements.  These 
others  are  doing  well  enough,  do  doubt;  perhaps  as  well  as  might 
reasonably  be  expected  under  the  circumstances,  but  they  are  a 
feeble  thing  in  comparison.  "Saul  has  slain  his  thousands,"  perhaps, 
"but  David  has  slain  his  tens  of  thousands." 


Within  a  year  after  this  footnote  was  written,  Mr.  Bruce 
Barton  published  The  Man  Nobody  Knows,  in  which  the  life 
and  works  of  the  Saviour  are  assimilated  into  the  body  of 
the  ad-man's  doctrine,  and  in  which  the  very  physical  linea- 
ments of  the  traditional  Christ  begin  to  take  on  a  family 
resemblance  to  those  of  the  modern  ad-man,  so  excellently 
typified  by  Mr.  Barton  himself.  The  discussion  of  this  brilliant 
job  of  rationalization  must  be  reserved  for  a  later  chapter. 
At  this  point  it  is  sufficient  to  observe  that  today  Veblen's 
ironic  patronage  of  the  emerging  priesthood  of  advertising 
sounds  astonishingly  inept  and  dated.  For  it  may  well  be 
contended  that  today  the  Propagation  of  the  Faith  is  rela- 
tively nowhere,  while  the  religion  of  the  ad-man  is  everywhere 
dominant  both  as  to  prestige  and  in  the  matter  of  administra- 
tive control.  Granted  that  both  religions  are  decadent,  since 
the  underlying  exploitative  system  which  both  support  is  it- 
self disintegrating  by  reason  of  its  internal  contradictions; 
none  the  less,  the  ad-man's  religion  is  today  the  prevailing 
American  religion,  and  the  true  heretic  must  therefore  con- 
centrate upon  this  modern  aspect  of  priestcraft.  The  ancient 
Propagation  of  the  Faith  continues,  of  course,  sometimes  in 
more  or  less  collusive  alliance  with  the  Church  of  Advertising, 
sometimes  in  jealous  and  recalcitrant  opposition.  We  can  give 
little  space  to  the  quarrels  and  intrigues  of  these  competing 
courtiers  at  the  High  Court  of  Business.  Clearly  the  present 
favorite  is  advertising,  and  we  turn  now  to  a  brief  resume 
of  the  historic  process  by  which  the  priesthood  of  ballyhoo 
attained  this  high  estate. 

Starting,  as  any  discussion  of  the  economic  and  ideological 
evolution  of  modern  industrial  capitalism  must  start,  with 
the  breakup  of  the  medieval  church-state  synthesis,  we  note 
that  the  Christian  feudalism  of  the  Middle  Ages  did  not  live 


by  buying  and  selling.  As  John  Strachey  puts  it  in  The  Com- 
ing Struggle  for  Power,  "what  Western  man  accomplished  by 
some  four  hundred  years  of  struggle,  between  the  fifteenth 
and  the  nineteenth  centuries,  was  the  establishment  of  the 
free  market."  The  development  of  monopoly  capitalism  in 
the  modern  period  qualified  this  ' "freedom"  of  course;  it 
also  intensified  the  fundamental  contradictions  of  capitalism, 
and  sharpened  the  ethical  dilemma  which  is  concisely  stated 
by  the  conservative  philosopher,  James  Hayden  Tufts,  in  his 
American  Social  Morality: 

The  impersonal  corporation  formed  for  profit  represents  in  clear- 
est degree  this  separation  of  the  modern  conduct  of  commerce  and 
industry  from  all  control  by  religious  authority  and  by  the  moral 
standards  and  restraints  grounded  in  the  older  professedly  personal 
relations  of  man  to  man  in  kinship,  neighborhood  or  civic  com- 
munity. .  .  .  To  turn  over  all  standards  to  the  market  was  to  lay 
a  foundation  for  future  conflicts  unless  the  market  should  provide 
some  substitute  for  the  older  standards  when  man  dealt  with  his 
fellow  and  faced  the  consequences  of  his  dealing. 

The  market  did  provide  such  a  substitute,  of  course — a  fake 
substitute.  It  provided  the  religion  of  advertising  and  devel- 
oped the  forms  and  controls  of  the  ad -man's  pseudoculture. 

It  is  this  utilitarian  faker y  with  which  we  are  here  con- 
cerned, rather  than  with  the  economic  and  political  conquests 
of  the  trading  class.  We  are  concerned  with  the  ideological  and 
religious  rationalizations  by  which  these  conquests  were  both 
implemented  and  justified.  My  former  advertising  colleague 
who  blamed  this  long  history  of  serio-comic  rationalization 
on  Martin  Luther  would  seem  to  be  somewhat  in  error,  just 
as  Max  Weber  probably  overemphasizes  the  role  of  the  Prot- 
estant Ethic,  the  Calvinistic  doctrine  of  "justification  by 

In  Weber's  view  the  Calvinistic  doctrine  of  worldly  suc- 


cess  in  a  "calling"  as  a  means  of  winning  divine  favor  con- 
stituted a  necessary  theological  counterpart  of  capitalism; 
without  such  reinforcement  of  the  normal  lust  for  gain,  he 
argues,  the  extraordinary  conquests  of  capitalism  in  England 
and  in  America  would  have  been  impossible.  Calvinism  recon- 
ciled piety  and  money-making;  in  fact  the  pursuit  of  riches, 
which  in  the  medieval  church  ethic  had  been  feared  as  the 
enemy  of  religion,  was  now  welcomed  as  its  ally.  It  is  impor- 
tant to  note,  as  does  Tawney  in  his  introduction  to  Weber's 
great  essay,  that  the  habits  and  institutions  in  which  this  phi- 
losophy found  expression  survived  long  after  the  creed  which 
was  their  parent  had  practically  expired.  So  that,  quoting 
Tawney,  "if  capitalism  begins  as  the  practical  idealism  of  the 
aspiring  bourgeoisie,  it  ends  ...  as  an  orgy  of  materialism." 
An  orgy  is  an  irrational  affair.  To  the  writer,  the  most 
interesting  and  suggestive  aspect  of  Weber's  interpretation,  as 
applied  to  the  contemporary  phenomena  of  the  ad-man's 
pseudoculture,  is  this  divorcing  of  the  acquisitive  drive  from 
any  control  by  hedonistic  rationality.  The  pursuit  of  wealth, 
for  the  Calvinistic  entrepreneur,  was  not  merely  an  advan- 
tage, but  a  duty.  And  this  sense  of  duty  persisted  long  after 
the  Calvinistic  sanctions  had  ceased  to  be  operative.  Money- 
making  for  money-making's-sake,  like  art-for-art's-sake,  sup- 
plied its  own  sanctions.  Both  are  self-contained  disciplines, 
fields  for  the  display  of  an  irrational  and  sterile  virtuosity. 
Weber,  in  the  concluding  pages  of  his  essay,  sets  forth  this 
consummation  with  moving  eloquence: 

In  the  field  of  its  highest  development,  in  the  United  States,  the 
pursuit  of  wealth,  stripped  of  its  religious  and  ethical  meaning, 
tends  to  become  associated  with  purely  mundane  passions,  which 
often  give  the  character  of  sport.  (The  advertising  "game."  J.  R.) 

No  one  knows  who  will  live  in  this  cage  in  the  future,  or  whether 
at  the  end  of  this  tremendous  development  entirely  new  prophets 
will  arise,  or  there  will  be  a  great  rebirth  of  old  ideas  and  ideals, 


or,  if  neither,  mechanized  petrifaction,  embellished  with  a  sort  of 
convulsive  self-importance.  For  of  the  last  stage  of  this  cultural 
development,  it  might  well  be  truly  said:  "Specialists  without  spirit, 
sensualists  without  heart;  this  nullity  imagines  that  it  has  at- 
tained a  level  of  civilization  never  before  achieved." 

But  note  that  this  was  written  in  1905.  What  Weber  saw 
with  horror  was  not  "the  last  stage,"  but  the  next-to-the-last 
stage — perhaps  not  even  that.  The  cage  was  kept  spinning,  not 
merely  by  its  accumulated  momentum,  but  by  the  organized 
application,  on  a  tremendous  scale,  of  the  great  force  of 
emulation.  Ten  years  before  Max  Weber  wrote  the  paragraph 
quoted,  Thorstein  Veblen  had  written  The  Theory  of  the 
Leisure  Class,  which  gave  currency  to  his  fertile  concepts  of 
"vicarious  expenditure,"  "conspicuous  waste,"  etc.  These  con- 
cepts, all  revolving  about  the  central  motivation  of  emula- 
tion, are  the  stock-in-trade  of  the  modern  advertising  copy 

New  prophets  did  arise  in  America — Elbert  Hubbard  for 
one,  Bruce  Barton  for  another.  America  entered  upon  the 
"surplus  economy"  phase  of  industrial  capitalism,  and  the 
appropriate  religion  for  this  period,  which  was  interrupted, 
but  also  accelerated  by  the  war,  was  the  religion  of  advertis- 
ing, which  did  not  reach  full  maturity  until  after  the  war.  The 
motion  picture  industry  came  along  as  an  important  adjunct 
of  the  emulative  promotion  machinery,  used  as  such  both  at 
home,  and  as  an  "ideological  export,"  to  further  the  conquests 
of  American  imperialism  in  "backward"  countries.  Peering 
out  of  the  vistas  ahead  were  radio  and  television. 

Seeing  all  this,  Theodore  Dreiser  seized  upon  the  great  theme 
of  emulation — keeping  up  with  the  Joneses — and  wrote  The 
American  Tragedy.  And  Carl  Sandburg  wrote,  almost  as  a 
kind  of  sad  ironic  parody  of  Weber:  "This  is  the  greatest  city 
of  the  greatest  country  that  ever,  ever  was."  And  the  cage 
spun  faster  than  ever.  And  Robert  Frost  wrote  West  Running 


Brook,  in  which  he  symbolizes  western  culture  as  a  stream  dis- 
appearing in  the  barren  soil  of  the  American  acquisitive  cul- 
ture. And  Robinson  Jeffers  wrote: 

Man,  introverted  man,  having  crossed 

In  passage  and  but  a  little  with  the  nature  of  things  this  latter 


Has  begot  giants;  but  being  taken  up 

Like  a  maniac  with  self  love  and  inward  conflicts  cannot  manage  his 


Being  used  to  deal  with  edgeless  dreams, 

Now  he's  bred  knives  on  nature  turns  them  also  inward;  they  have 

thirty  points,  though. 
His  mind  forebodes  his  own  destruction; 

Actacon  who  saw  the  goddess  naked  among  the  leaves  and  his  hounds 

tore  him. 

A  little  knowledge,  a  pebble  from  the  shingle, 
A  drop  from  the  oceans;  who  would  have  dreamed  this  infinitely 

little  too  much? 

When  he  wrote  this,  as  a  kind  of  an  advance  obituary  of 
industrial  capitalism,  Jeifers  was  an  unknown  recluse  on  the 
coast  of  California,  and  the  book  in  which  it  appeared  was 
printed  at  his  own  expense.  But  that  same  year  the  presses 
rolled  out  the  four  millionth  copy  of  Elbert  Hubbard's  Mes- 
sage to  Garcia,  in  which  the  big  business  cracks  the  whip  over 
the  modern  office  wage  slave. 

The  cage  spun  faster  still.  On  an  August  midnight  in 
Union  Square,  New  York,  a  banner  was  flung  out  of  the 
Freiheit  office  reading  "Vanzetti  Murdered!"  and,  in  the  words 
of  the  New  York  World's  reporter: 

The  crowd  responded  with  a  giant  sob.  Women  fainted  in  fifteen 
or  twenty  places.  Others  too,  overcome,  dropped  to  the  curbs  and 
buried  their  heads  in  their  hands.  Men  leaned  on  one  another's 
shoulders  and  wept.  There  was  a  sudden  movement  in  the  street 


to  the  east  of  the  Square.  Men  began  running  around  aimlessly, 
tearing  at  their  clothes,  and  dropping  their  straw  hats,  and  women 
ripped  their  dresses  in  anguish. 

Thus  the  State  of  Massachusetts  was  killing  the  God  in 
man.  But  Bruce  Barton  still  lived,  and,  having  written  The 
Man  Nobody  Knows,  went  on  to  write  The  Book  Nobody 
Knows,  and  On  the  Up  and  Up. 





THE  emergence  of  organized  and  incorporated  salesmanship 
as  the  characteristic  phenomenon  of  the  American  society,  the 
transmigration  of  the  soul  of  the  Fourth  Estate  into  the 
material  body  of  the  advertising  business — these  developments 
can  be  viewed  as  logical  sequences  in  the  evolution  of  indus- 
trial capitalism;  they  can  also  be  studied  as  the  end  products 
of  a  social  philosophy.  In  this  chapter  we  shall  attempt  to 
outline  the  ideological  evolution  as  it  appears  in  the  life  and 
works  of  significant  American  personalities.  Benjamin  Frank- 
lin, Jay  Cooke,  P.  T.  Barnum,  Henry  Ward  Beecher,  Elbert 
Hubbard,  Bruce  Barton:  what  these  men  thought  and  did 
and  said  was  doubtless  determined  largely  by  the  economic 
environment  in  which  they  rose  to  power  and  influence.  But 
their  attitudes,  acts  and  utterances  served  to  rationalize  and 
thereby  to  promote  the  material  evolution,  in  the  study  of 
which  the  economist  specializes.  What  we  look  for,  in  the 
evidence  of  these  lives,  is  the  religion  of  salesmanship  which 
became  more  and  more,  after  the  turn  of  the  century,  the 
religion  of  advertising.  What  we  find  is  a  kind  of  sequence 
of  crowd  heroes,  each  modeling  himself  more  or  less  on  the 
ones  preceding.  They  are  middle-class  heroes,  all  of  them, 
and  the  crown  and  glory  of  the  towering  structure  of  ration- 
alization which  they  erected  is  the  identification  of  the  Christ 
mission  with  the  mission  of  the  middle-class  salesman  and 
advertising  man,  which  was  accomplished  by  Mr.  Barton  in 


The  Man  Nobody  Knows. 

Even  today  the  masthead  of  the  Saturday  Evening  Post 
bears  the  proud  statement  "Founded  by  Benjamin  Franklin." 
The  statement  is  true  in  spirit  if  not  in  fact.  The  Saturday 
Evening  Post  is  the  most  influential  advertising  medium  in 
America — in  the  world  for  that  matter.  And  the  social  and 
political  philosophy  of  its  publisher  derives  clearly  from  the 
sly  wisdom  of  that  ineffable  parvenu,  that  Yankee  all-right- 
nick  of  genius  who  signed  himself  "Poor  Richard."  Franklin 
serves  as  a  point  of  departure  because  he  was  a  business-minded 
pragmatist.  He  was  not  a  Babbitt  and  it  is  impossible  to  con- 
ceive of  Franklin,  a  man  of  genius,  playing  the  role  of  a  Hub- 
bard  or  a  Barton  a  century  later.  But  on  the  other  hand  it 
seems  fair  to  credit  Franklin  with  laying  the  ground-work 
of  the  American  acquisitive  ethic. 


"Remember,  that  time  is  money  .  .  .  Remember,  that 
credit  is  money.  If  a  man  lets  money  be  on  my  hands  after 
it  is  due,  he  gives  me  the  interest,  or  so  much  as  I  can  make 
of  it  during  that  time.  Remember,  that  money  is  of  the 
prolific,  generating  nature.  Money  can  beget  money,  and  its 
offspring  can  beget  more,  and  so  on.  Remember  this  saying, 
rthe  good  paymaster  is  lord  of  another  man's  purse.'  He 
that  is  known  to  pay  punctually  and  exactly  to  the  time  he 
promises  may  at  any  time  and  on  any  occasion  raise  all  the 
money  his  friends  can  spare  .  .  .  The  most  trifling  actions 
that  affect  a  man's  credit  are  to  be  regarded.  The  sound  of 
your  hammer  at  five  in  the  morning  or  eight  at  night,  heard 
by  a  creditor,  makes  him  easy  six  months  longer;  but  if  he 
sees  you  at  a  billiard  table  or  hears  your  voice  at  a  tavern, 
when  you  should  be  at  work,  he  sends  for  his  money  the 
next  day." 

Remember,  remember.  Remember,  in  the  matter  of  sex, 


its  utilitarian  aspect;  sexualize  to  promote  health  or  for  the 
sober  procreation  of  children;  "do  not  marry  for  money,  but 
marry  where  money  is."  If  as  a  young  man  you  cannot  afford 
to  marry,  choose  your  mistress  wisely,  preferably  an  older 
woman,  since  a  pretty  face  adds  nothing  of  utility  or  sub- 
stantial enjoyment  to  the  transaction  and  moreover  the  older 
women  are  so  grateful." 

Franklin  was  careful  to  be  good  because,  honesty  being  the 
best  policy,  it  paid  him  to  be  good.  And  when  he  was  not 
careful  to  be  good,  he  was  careful  to  be  careful. 

"I  grew  convinced  that  truth,  sincerity  and  integrity  in 
dealings  between  man  and  man  were  of  the  utmost  impor- 
tance to  the  felicity  of  life  .  .  .  Revelation  had  indeed  no 
weight  with  me  as  such;  but  I  entertained  an  opinion  that, 
though  certain  actions  might  not  be  bad  because  they  were 
forbidden  by  it,  or  good  because  it  commanded  them,  yet 
probably  those  actions  might  be  forbidden  because  they  were 
bad  for  us,  or  commanded  because  they  were  beneficial  to 
us  in  their  own  nature,  all  the  circumstances  of  things  con- 

The  utilitarian  point  of  view  could  scarcely  be  made  more 
explicit.  But  Franklin  achieved  a  further  logical  extension  of 
the  utilitarian  philosophy,  to  which  Weber  calls  attention  in 
"The  Protestant  Ethic." 

"Now,  all  Franklin's  moral  attitudes  are  colored  with  utili- 
tarianisms. Honesty  is  useful,  because  it  assures  credit;  so  are 
punctuality,  industry,  frugality,  and  that  is  the  reason  they 
are  virtues.  A  logical  deduction  from  this  would  be  that 
where,  for  instance,  the  appearance  of  honesty  serves  the  same 
purpose,  that  would  suffice,  and  an  unnecessary  surplus  of  this 
virtue  would  evidently  appear  to  Franklin's  eyes  as  unpro- 
ductive waste.  And  as  a  matter  of  fact,  the  story  in  his  auto- 
biography of  his  conversion  to  those  virtues,  or  the  discus- 
sion of  the  value  of  a  strict  maintenance  of  the  appearance  of 

modesty,  the  assiduous  belittlement  of  one's  own  desserts  in 
order  to  gain  general  recognition  later,  confirms  this  impres- 
sion. According  to  Franklin,  those  virtues,  like  all  others,  are 
only  in  so  far  virtues  as  they  are  actually  useful  to  the  indi- 
vidual, and  the  surrogate  of  mere  appearances  is  always  suf- 
ficient when  it  accomplishes  the  end  in  view.  It  is  a  conclusion 
which  is  inevitable  for  strict  utilitarianism." 

Compare  this  accurate  characterization  of  Poor  Richard's 
credo  with  the  attitude  of  the  manufacturers  of  Creomulsion, 
a  proprietary  remedy,  expressed  in  a  form  letter  designed  to 
coerce  newspaper  publishers  into  attacking  the  Tugwell  Pure 
Food  and  Drugs  Bill: 

Gentlemen:  You  are  about  to  lose  a  substantial  amount  of  adver- 
tising revenue  from  food,  drug,  and  cosmetic  manufacturers.  Your 
pocketbook  is  about  to  be  filched  and  you  will  see  how  if  you  will 
personally  study  ...  the  enclosed  copy  of  the  Tugwell  Bill.  This 
bill  was  introduced  by  two  doctors.  .  .  .  You  publish  your  paper  for 
profit  and  as  a  service  to  your  community.  In  most  virile  business 
organizations  the  altruistic  policies  in  the  final  analysis  are  means  to 
the  primary  end  which  is  profit.  (My  italics  J.  R.)  ...  An  isolated 
editorial  or  two  will  not  suffice.  .  .  .  You  need  to  take  an  aggressive 
stand  against  this  measure.  You  need  to  bring  all  personal  pressure 
you  can  upon  your  senators  and  representatives.  You  need  to  en- 
lighten and  thereby  arouse  your  public  against  this  bill  which  is 
calculated  to  greatly  restrict  personal  rights.  If  this  bill  should 
become  law  we  will  be  forced  to  cancel  immediately  every  line 
of  Creomulsion  advertising.  .  .  . 

Surely  the  italicized  sentence  expresses  the  essence  of  the 
Poor  Richard  Philosophy  and  shows  that  the  wisdom  of 
Benjamin  Franklin  still  lives  in  the  hearts  and  minds  of  his 
countrymen,  especially  those  who,  like  the  manufacturers  of 
Creomulsion,  are  engaged  in  manipulating  the  techniques  of 
rule  by  advertising. 



Vernon  L.  Parrington,  in  the  third  volume  of  his  Main 
Currents  of  American  Thought,  remarks  that  "in  certain  re- 
spects Jay  Cooke  may  be  reckoned  the  first  modern  Ameri- 
can." He  financed  the  Civil  War,  and  in  the  course  of  his 
operations  developed  and  used  on  the  grand  scale  most  of  the 
techniques  of  the  modern  advertiser  and  mass  propagandist. 
With  the  Liberty  Loan  drives  in  mind,  compare  Parrington's 
summary  of  Cooke's  pioneering  achievements. 

Under  his  bland  deacon-like  exterior  was  the  mind  of  a  realist. 
...  If  he  were  to  lure  dollars  from  old  stockings  in  remote  chim- 
ney corners  he  must  "sell"  patriotism  to  his  fellow  Americans;  and 
to  do  that  successfully  he  must  manufacture  a  militant  public  opin- 
ion. The  soldier  at  the  front,  he  announced  in  a  flood  of  adver- 
tisements, must  be  supported  at  the  rear.  .  .  .  To  induce  slacker 
dollars  to  become  fighting  dollars  he  placed  his  agents  in  every 
neighborhood,  in  newspaper  offices,  in  banks,  in  pulpits — patriotic 
forerunners  of  the  "one-minute  men"  of  later  drives.  .  .  .  He  sub- 
sidized the  press  with  a  lavish  hand,  not  only  the  metropolitan 
dailies  but  the  obscurist  country  weeklies.  He  employed  an  army  of 
hack-writers  to  prepare  syndicated  matter  and  he  scattered  paying 
copy  broadcast.  .  .  .  He  bought  the  pressings  of  whole  vineyards 
and  casks  of  pure  wine  flowed  in  an  endless  stream  to  strategic 
publicity  points.  Rival  brokers  hinted  that  he  was  debauching  the 
press,  but  the  army  of  greenbacks  marching  to  the  front  was  his 
reply.  It  all  cost  a  pretty  penny,  but  the  government  was  liberal 
with  commissions  and  when  all  expenses  were  deducted  perhaps 
$2,000,000  of  profits  remained  in  the  vaults  of  the  firm  to  be  added 
to  the  many  other  millions  which  the  prestige  of  the  government 
agency  with  its  free  advertising  brought  in  its  train. 

Having  successfully  sold  a  war,  Jay  Cooke  turned  to  sell- 
ing railroad  stock — specifically,  the  Northern  Pacific.  He 
kept  much  of  his  war  publicity  machine  intact  and  used  it 

both  for  this  purpose  and  to  shape  public  opinion  in  regard  to 
taxation  funding,  and  the  currency — naturally  in  his  own 
interests.  But  the  outbreak  of  the  Franco-Prussian  War  smashed 
Cooke's  European  bond-selling  campaign  and  the  fall  of  the 
house  of  Cooke  precipitated  the  panic  of  '73. 

Jay  Cooke  carried  into  the  realm  of  national  finance  and 
politics  the  morals,  ethics  and  philosophy  of  a  frontier  trader 
and  real  estate  speculator.  Profoundly  ignorant  of  social  or 
economic  principles  he  wrote  or  had  written  for  him  con- 
tributions to  economic  theory  which  were  little  more  than 
clumsy  and  transparent  rationalizations  of  a  money  lender's 
greed.  But — he  was  successful  in  amassing  great  wealth;  hence 
he  was,  during  his  heyday,  a  popular  hero  whose  opinions  on 
any  subject  were  listened  to  with  great  respect  by  his  fellow 
Americans.  Moreover,  he  was,  as  Parrington  noted:  "Scrupu- 
lous in  all  religious  duties,  a  kind  husband,  a  generous  friend, 
benevolent  in  all  worthy  charities,  simple  and  democratic  in 
his  tastes,  ardently  patriotic."  As  a  man,  he  seems  to  have 
had  neither  blood  nor  brains — Franklin  had  both — but  in  his 
life  and  work  he  applied  the  middle-class  virtues  of  Poor 
Richard  to  the  acquisitive  opportunities  of  the  Gilded  Age.  So 
that  to  a  people  given  over  to  the  worship  of  money-progress 
and  money-opportunity  he  was  a  kind  of  Moses,  envied  and 
revered  in  life  by  all  classes  and  worshipped  by  his  biographer. 

In  brief,  he  was  a  mean  and  sorry  little  parvenu;  and  one 
of  the  founding  fathers  of  the  religion  of  salesmanship  and 
advertising.  His  career  marks  a  step  in  the  evolution  of  the 
American  crowd  hero,  and  in  the  evolution  of  the  American 


Salesmanship  and  showmanship  are  variants  of  the  same 
technique  and  both  find  their  sanctions  in  Franklin's  utili- 
tarian ethic.  America's  greatest  showman  belongs  in  the  his- 


torical  sequence  of  American  crowd  heroes  for  a  number  of 
reasons.  In  him  the  doctrine  of  justification  by  works  re- 
ceives its  extreme  pragmatic  application  in  "the  people  like  to 
be  fooled"  and  "there  is  a  sucker  born  every  minute."  That 
this  greasy  faker,  this  vulgar  horse-trading  yokel  could  have 
successfully  worn  the  cloak  of  piety  all  his  life;  that  his 
autobiography,  the  prototype  of  the  American  success  story, 
was  for  years  an  unrivaled  best  seller,  standing  alongside  of 
Franklin's  Autobiography  and  Pilgrim's  Progress  in  many 
thousands  of  American  homes;  that  he  was,  for  multitudes 
of  his  fellow  citizens  a  model  American — all  this  is  difficult 
to  believe  at  this  distance.  Yet  his  biographer,  M.  R.  Werner, 
supplies  impressive  evidence  that  it  was  so. 

When  you  give  one  of  your  daughters  away  in  matrimony,  advise 
her  to  imitate  Charity  Barnum;  when  your  son  leaves  home  to  try 
his  luck  on  the  ocean  of  life,  give  him  Barnum  for  a  guide;  when 
you  yourself  are  in  trouble  and  misery  and  near  desperation,  take 
from  Barnum's  life  and  teachings  consolation  and  courage. 

Henry  Hilgert,  a  Baltimore  preacher,  stood  up  in  his  pulpit 
and  said  this  to  his  congregation  and  there  is  every  reason  to 
believe  that  he  expressed  with  substantial  accuracy  the  con- 
temporary popular  evaluation  of  the  great  showman.  The  man 
he  was  talking  about  started  his  career  in  a  country  store 
in  Bethel,  Connecticut,  watering  the  rum,  sanding  the  sugar 
and  dusting  the  pepper  that  he  sold  to  his  fellow  townsmen, 
cheating  and  being  cheated,  playing  cruel  practical  jokes,  all 
strictly  in  accordance  with  the  savage  mores  of  that  idyllic 
New  England  community,  where  the  public  whipping  post 
menaced  the  ungodly  arid  suicides  were  buried  at  the  cross- 
roads. From  this  he  advanced  to  running  a  public  lottery  and 
with  the  profits  went  to  New  York,  where  the  advertising  of 
Dr.  Brandeth's  Pills  was  helping  James  Gordon  Bennett  to 
lay  the  foundations  of  the  modern  American  newspaper. 

At  thirty-one  Barnum  was  writing  advertisements  for  the 
Bowery  Amphitheater  at  four  dollars  a  week.  He  was  a 
"natural"  at  the  business  and  used  his  skill  to  get  control 
of  the  American  Museum  where  he  began  to  advertise  in 
earnest.  When  the  posters  of  the  negro  violinist  didn't  pull, 
he  changed  them  to  show  the  violinist  playing  upside  down. 
Then  they  pulled,  and  the  customers  didn't  mind,  because 
Barnum  gave  them  a  flea  circus  and  a  pair  of  albinos  as  added 
attractions.  He  advertised  his  theatrical  performances  as  re- 
ligious lectures,  and  the  best  and  most  devout  people  flocked 
to  them.  His  advertisements  of  Joyce  Heth,  "the  nurse  of 
George  Washington,"  the  Japanese  mermaid,  the  white  whales, 
Jenny  Lind  and  Jumbo  drained  the  dictionary  of  adjectives. 
Modern  movie  advertising  has  added  nothing  new  or  better 
to  the  technique.  He  stood — with  Tom  Thumb — before  kings. 
He  lectured  to  thousands  on  power  of  will  and  success  through 
godliness.  He  invested  his  money  in  factories  and  in  real  estate 
developments  designed  to  house  religious  working  men  who 
didn't  drink,  smoke  or  chew.  He  went  bankrupt,  but  with 
the  $150,000  his  creditors  couldn't  get  he  "came  back" 
gloriously  and  made  another  fortune. 

To  the  museum  which  Barnum  gave  to  Tufts  College  there 
still  come  on  Sunday  afternoons  good  people  from  the  sur- 
rounding suburbs  who  stand  in  awe  before  the  stuffed  carcass 
of  Jumbo.  And  the  college  glee  club  still  sings: 

Who  was  P.  T.  Barnum? 
The  first  in  tents 
And  consequently  hence 
The  first  in  the  realm  of  dollars  and  cents. 
The  first  to  know 
That  a  real  fine  show 
Must  have  a  gen-u-ine  Jumbo. 
The  first  to  come 
With  the  needful  sum 

To  found  our  college  mus-e-um! 
Pee  Tee  Barnum!! 


Barnum  had  nerve,  a  kind  of  bucolic  Yankee  hardihood 
which  enabled  him  to  trade  in  godliness  with  the  same  poker- 
faced  effrontery  that  characterized  his  circus  barking.  That, 
with  a  certain  crude  but  vigorous  histrionism,  would  appear 
to  be  his  contribution  to  the  evolution  of  the  American  crowd- 
hero  type. 

Henry  Ward  Beecher,  in  contrast,  was  a  deplorable  'fraid- 
cat  all  his  days.  But  he  was  a  much  more  complex  and  inter- 
esting figure  than  the  great  showman,  and  embodied  more 
richly  the  conflicting  strains  of  the  cultural  heritage.  He,  too, 
was  a  middle-class  crowd  hero.  Yet  curiously,  his  unrivaled 
eminence  as  a  preacher  and  editor,  in  a  period  when  the  influ- 
ence of  the  church  and  the  church  press  was  enormous,  never 
quite  gave  him  the  mass  influence  which  Barnum  clearly  had. 
One  reason  for  this,  of  course,  was  the  scandal  which  clouded 
his  later  years.  But  there  is  perhaps  another  and  even  more 
important  reason.  Beecher,  though  a  showman  both  by  nature 
and  by  long  training,  had  a  private  impurity  which  is  incom- 
patible with  pure  showmanship,  pure  salesmanship,  pure 
money-making.  Beecher  took  himself  seriously.  He  was  a 
faker,  a  liar  and  a  cheat,  as  was  Barnum,  and  at  bottom  he 
was  just  about  as  vulgar  as  Barnum.  But  Beecher  had  a  per- 
sonal mission — to  repudiate  the  harsh  Calvinism  of  his  father, 
the  loveless  despotism  of  that  barren  Litchfield  parsonage,  and 
proclaim  the  gospel  of  love.  So  Henry  Ward  Beecher  strug- 
gled; a  scared  child,  he  begged  the  love  of  women  which  he 
never  earned;  women  whom  he  later  repudiated.  Seemingly 
they  loved  him;  at  least  they  never  gave  him  the  hatred 
which  his  cowardly  betrayals  richly  deserved.  Why?  Perhaps 
because  they  pitied  him  and  saw  that  he  was  struggling  genu- 


inely  after  his  fashion;  struggling  to  be  himself,  to  defy  the 
Calvinist  God,  to  assert  the  Tightness  of  the  tremendous  emo- 
tionality which  was  his  greatest  endowment.  Victoria  Wood- 
hull,  that  extraordinary  woman,  probably  came  close  to 
stating  the  truth  about  Beecher  when  she  wrote: 

The  immense  physical  potency  of  Mr.  Beecher,  and  the  indomi- 
table urgency  of  his  great  nature  for  the  intimacy  and  embraces  of 
the  noble  and  cultured  women  about  him,  instead  of  being  a  bad 
thing  as  the  world  thinks,  or  thinks  it  thinks,  or  professes  to  think  it 
thinks,  is  one  of  the  noblest  and  grandest  endowments  of  this  truly 
great  and  representative  man.  Plymouth  Church  has  lived  and  fed, 
and  the  healthy  vigor  of  public  opinion  for  the  last  quarter  of  a 
century  has  been  augmented  and  strengthened  from  the  physical 
amativeness  of  Rev.  Henry  Ward  Beecher. 

How  Beecher  writhed  when  he  read  this!  And  with  what 
maledictions  the  brethren  of  Plymouth  Church  rejected  this 
intolerable  tribute  to  their  adored  pastor!  For  it  was  not  pre- 
cisely Henry  Ward  Beecher's  business  to  revolutionize  the 
sexual  mores  of  his  time.  Not  his  the  stuff  of  which  martyrs 
are  made.  Earlier  in  his  career,  Beecher  had  rejected  this  role. 
When  his  brother,  his  father,  most  of  his  more  courageous 
parishioners  had  embraced  the  cause  of  abolition  Beecher  had 
played  safe  on  the  slavery  question.  Instead  he  had  chosen  as 
his  pulpiteering  stock  in  trade  the  denunciation  of  the  liquor 
traffic.  And  the  jibe  of  a  distiller  whom  he  had  attacked  was 
well  earned: 

You  cannot  justify  slavery  by  talking  about  the  making  of 
whiskey.  .  .  .  Why  is  thy  tongue  still  and  thy  pen  idle  when  the 
sentiments  of  thy  brother  and  thy  church  on  slavery  are  promul- 
gated? Thou  idle  boaster — where  is  thy  vaunted  boldness?  .  .  .  You 
are  greatly  to  be  pitied,  even  by  a  distiller. 

Just  what  was  Henry  Ward  Beecher's  business,  his  "useful- 


ness"  to  the  preservation  of  which  he  sacrificed  friend  after 
friend  along  with  his  own  honor  and  decency?  It  was  the 
preaching  business.  It  was  also  indirectly  the  advertising  de- 
partment of  the  real  estate  business.  In  Henry  Ward  Beecber: 
An  American  Portrait,  Paxton  Hibben  writes: 

The  investment  character  of  his  church  was  a  matter  that  every 
metropolitan  minister  of  that  day  was  expected  to  bear  in  mind. 
Pews  were  auctioned  off  to  the  highest  bidder  and  church  scrip 
bore  seven  per  cent  interest.  A  popular  preacher  was,  also,  a  better 
real  estate  advertisement  than  whole  pages  of  publicity.  Indeed, 
such  a  preacher  as  Henry  Ward  Beecher  proved,  readily  secured 
pages  of  publicity  for  the  neighborhood  in  which  he  officiated.  For 
it  was  the  day  when  church  going  was  the  only  amusement  per- 
mitted the  godly,  and  divine  service  received  the  attention  from  the 
press  later  accorded  theaters  and  social  activities. 

Beecher  had  trained  hard  for  this  business.  In  a  later  lecture 
at  Yale,  which  took  the  form  of  a  success  story,  he  said: 

I  got  this  idea:  that  the  Apostles  were  accustomed  to  feel  for  a 
ground  on  which  the  people  and  they  stood  together;  a  common 
ground  where  they  could  meet.  Then  they  stored  up  a  large  number 
of  the  particulars  of  knowledge,  which  belonged  to  everybody; 
when  they  get  that  knowledge  that  everybody  would  admit,  placed 
in  proper  form  before  their  minds,  then  they  brought  it  to  bear 
upon  them  with  all  their  excited  heart  and  feeling. 

It  is  not  difficult  to  recognize  this  as  essentially  the  formula 
of  Mr.  Barton's  syndicated  lay  preachments.  In  fact,  Beecher's 
pulpiteering  and  Barton's  syndicated  essays  are  essentially 
advertisements  designed  to  "sell"  the  acquisitive  society  to 
itself.  Beecher's  method  was  in  all  important  respects  the 
method  by  which  an  advertising  agency  after  appropriate 
"research"  arrives  at  the  most  effective  "copy  slant"  with 
which  to  sell  a  new  toothpaste  or  a  new  gargle.  The  basic 


conviction  which  underlies  all  these  enterprises  in  showman- 
ship, salesmanship  and  advertising  is  expressed  in  one  of  Mr. 
Barton's  favorite  mottoes:  "There  is  somebody  wiser  than 
anybody.  That  somebody  is  everybody." 

However,  one  must  admit  that  although  Beecher  unques- 
tionably had  the  authentic  Big  Idea,  he  was  too  neurotic  and 
too  blundering  ever  quite  to  come  through  as  a  successful 
advertising  man.  He  was  forever  picking  the  wrong  theme 
song  at  the  wrong  time.  Take  his  attitude  toward  Lincoln: 

It  will  be  difficult  for  a  man  to  be  born  lower  than  he  was.  He 
is  an  unshapely  man.  He  is  a  man  that  bears  evidence  of  not  having 
been  educated  in  schools  or  in  circles  of  refinement. 

Thousands  of  middle  class  American  parvenues  took  that 
view  of  Lincoln  but  it  took  a  pompous  blatherskite  like 
Beecher  to  plump  out  with  it  from  the  pulpit  of  a  Christian 
church.  And  many  of  Beecher's  parishioners  had  sense  enough 
to  see  that  Lincoln  was  not  merely  a  better  man  but  a  better 
politician  than  Beecher.  But  there  we  run  again  into  Beecher 's 
limiting  private  impurity.  He  was  not  merely  a  snob,  but  a 
sincere  snob. 

Beecher  was  to  achieve  worse  flops  than  this.  In  the  year 
1887,  when  strikes  were  sweeping  the  country,  Beecher  under- 
took to  rehabilitate  his  smirched  reputation  by  coming  out 
as  the  defender  of  "law  and  order"  and  "life,  liberty,  and 
prosperity"  to  quote  his  significant  revision  of  Jefferson.  He 

Is  the  great  working  class  oppressed?  .  .  .  yes,  undoubtedly,  it 
is  ...  God  has  intended  the  great  to  be  great  and  the  little  to  be 
little  .  .  .  the  trades  union,  originated  under  the  European  system, 
destroys  liberty.  ...  I  do  not  say  that  a  dollar  a  day  is  enough  to 
support  a  working  man,  but  it  is  enough  to  support  a  man!  .  .  . 
not  enough  to  support  a  man  and  five  children  if  a  man  would 


insist  on  smoking  and  drinking  beer.  .  .  .  But  the  man  who  cannot 
live  on  bread  and  water  is  not  fit  to  live. 

One  can  scarcely  do  better  than  to  quote  Paxton  Hibben's 
comment  on  this  catastrophic  muff,  which  the  cartoonists  ex- 
ploited for  years  afterwards: 

As  the  slogan  of  a  great  crusade  in  the  leadership  of  which  Beecher 
could  reconquer  the  esteem  of  the  American  public,  this  bread  and 
water  doctrine  somehow  lacked  pulling  power. 

Beecher  was  not  so  much  a  cynic  as  a  charlatan,  and  the 
limiting  vice  of  charlatans  is  that  they  tend  to  take  themselves 
seriously.  That  is  bad  business  and  the  more  sophisticated 
charlatans  like  Elbert  Hubbard  are  careful  not  to  handicap 
their  operations  by  private  impurities  of  this  sort.  Moreover, 
Beecher  was  sloppy  and  careless.  Take  his  flier  in  advertising 
in  connection  with  Jay  Cooke's  Northern  Pacific  promotion 

In  January,  1870,  Beecher  received  $15,000  worth  of 
Northern  Pacific  stock  for  the  express  purpose  of  influencing 
the  public  mind  to  favor  the  new  railroad.  Beecher's  aid  was 
to  include  the  use  of  the  Christian  Union,  a  newspaper  which 
he  edited.  The  matter  came  to  light  and  Beecher  was  roundly 
denounced.  The  moral  would  seem  to  be  that  Beecher  should 
have  been  more  careful  as  were  some  of  his  parishioners,  like 
"Tearful  Tommy"  Shearman,  clerk  of  Plymouth  Church, 
who  were  also  in  on  the  proposition.  The  modern  method  of 
accomplishing  the  required  enlightenment  of  public  opinion 
would  have  been  for  Jay  Cooke  to  place  a  substantial  adver- 
tising contract  with  the  Christian  Union  and  then  threaten 
to  cancel  it  if  Beecher  failed  to  "co-operate."  Theodore  Tilton, 
the  man  whose  wife  Beecher  begged  love  from  and  whom  he 
ruined  and  drove  into  exile — Theodore  Tilton,  also  an  editor, 


told  Jay  Cooke  to  go  to  hell.  But  Tilton  was  a  good  deal  of 
a  man. 

Beecher,  like  other  divided  souls,  was  not  his  own  master. 
His  physical  amativeness  appears  to  have  been  genuine,  and 
he  was  an  authentic  sentimentalist,  if  there  is  such  a  thing. 
And  he  really  did  hate  his  father  and  his  father's  Calvinism. 
So  in  the  end,  when  it  was  fairly  safe  to  do  so,  Beecher  came 
clean  on  one  count.  He  denounced  the  Calvinist  hell,  whose 
flames  had  been  licking  his  conscience  for  all  those  many  years. 
Call  it  wish-fulfilment  if  you  like,  but  Beecher  stood  up  in 
Plymouth  Church  and  said: 

To  tell  me  that  back  of  Christ  is  a  God  who  for  unnumbered 
centuries  has  gone  on  creating  man  and  sweeping  them  like  dead 
flies — nay,  like  living  ones — into  hell  is  to  ask  me  to  worship  a  being 
as  much  worse  than  the  conception  of  a  medieval  devil  as  can  be 
imagined.  ...  I  will  not  worship  cruelty.  I  will  worship  love — that 
sacrifices  itself  for  the  good  of  those  who  err,  and  that  is  as  patient 
with  them  as  a  mother  is  with  a  sick  child. 

On  the  whole  this  was  a  pretty  good  negative-appeal  adver- 
tisement. But  it  wasn't  entirely  well-timed.  Beecher  had  to 
alter  the  slant  several  times  before  he  hit  the  bull's  eye  of 
public  opinion — that  wise  "everybody"  to  whom  he  dedicated 
his  "usefulness." 

Not  a  pleasant  figure,  Beecher.  Half  sincere  and  more  than 
half  neurotic  charlatans  are  never  pleasant,  nor  are  their  lives 
at  all  happy.  And  in  age  their  faces  look  like  the  wrath  of  God. 


In  the  sequence  thus  far  we  have  seen  a  statesman,  a  finan- 
cier, a  showman  and  a  preacher,  using  the  philosophy  and 
techniques  of  salesmanship  and  presenting  themselves,  with 
greater  or  less  success,  as  heroes  for  the  admiration  of  the 


crowd.  None  of  them  was  a  professional  advertising  man.  But 
all  of  them  were  crowd  leaders  engaged  in  selling  themselves; 
also  in  selling  the  middle-class  acquisitive  ethic,  and  in  round- 
ing out  the  body  of  rationalization  which  the  expansion  of 
American  industrial  capitalism  required.  Advertising,  as  Mr. 
Roy  Dickinson,  president  of  Printers'  Ink,  has  pointed  out, 
is  not  an  independent  economic  or  social  entity.  It  is  merely 
a  function  of  business  management,  and  all  these  American 
crowd  heroes  were  business  men,  first,  last  and  always. 

In  Elbert  Hubbard,  however,  we  encounter  the  advertising 
man  per  se,  a  professional  of  professionals.  All  the  others  had 
"callings"  in  which,  to  earn  divine  favor,  they  were  obliged 
to  be  successful.  To  be  successful  they  were  obliged  to  employ 
the  techniques  of  salesmanship,  of  showmanship,  of  advertis- 
ing, since  these  were  the  most  effective  techniques  of  leader- 
ship and  of  rule  in  the  system  as  they  found  it.  But  Hubbard 
was  called  to  the  pure  priesthood  of  advertising  from  the 
beginning,  and  by  his  success  in  this  "calling"  became  a  crowd 
hero.  True,  they  called  him  a  great  writer,  and  a  great  printer, 
but  the  rose  of  advertising  smells  the  same  by  whatever  name 
it  is  called;  in  effect  he  never  wrote  or  printed  anything  but 
advertisements.  This,  as  we  shall  see,  is  equally  true  of  that 
other  great  professional,  Bruce  Barton. 

Elbert  Hubbard  deserves  much  more  careful  and  detailed 
study  than  he  has  received  at  the  hands  of  his  biographers. 
He  was  born  in  1856  in  Bloomington,  Illinois,  the  son  of  a 
physician.  At  thirty  he  was  already  a  highly  successful  adver- 
tising man  in  the  employ  of  a  Buffalo,  N.  Y.,  soap  manufac- 
turer; among  the  sales  techniques  which  he  helped  to  de- 
velop were  the  use  of  premiums  and  various  devices  of  credit 
extension.  In  1892,  he  had  made  enough  money  to  retire  and 
give  himself  a  college  education.  He  entered  Harvard  as  an 
undergraduate,  but  soon  gave  it  up.  Obviously  President  Eliot 
and  his  academic  co-workers  didn't  know  what  America  was 
all  about.  Hubbard  wasn't  sure  himself,  but  he  had  a  hunch. 


It  was  the  period  of  rococo  enthusiasms  in  art,  in  economics, 
in  politics.  Hubbard  went  to  England,  met  William  Morris, 
and  cheerfully  appropriated  all  the  salable  elements  of  Mor- 
ris's social  and  aesthetic  philosophy.  He  knew  what  he  wanted, 
did  Hubbard,  and  especially  what  he  didn't  want.  He  wasn't 
having  any  of  Morris's  militant  socialism  for  one  thing.  As  far 
as  radicalism  was  concerned,  Franklin's  "surrogate  of  appear- 
ance" was  what  Hubbard  required — in  other  words  a  "front." 
And  in  his  later  career  as  strike-breaker  and  big  business 
apologist  he  discarded  even  that.  As  for  art,  Hubbard  made 
haste  on  his  return  to  America  to  debauch  everything  that 
was  good  in  the  Morris  aesthetic  and  to  heighten  and  distort 
what  was  bad  to  the  proportions  of  burlesque.  The  quantity 
of  typographic  and  other  sham  "craftsmanship"  spawned  by 
Hubbard's  East  Aurora  workshop  is  too  huge  even  to  cata- 
logue. Some  of  the  de  luxe  editions  he  got  out  sold  for  $500 
apiece.  He  knew  his  American  self-made  business  man,  did 
Hubbard,  and  the  cultural  "surrogates  of  appearance"  which 
the  tycoons  of  the  nineties  required  for  their  libraries  were 
hand-illuminated  by  a  "genius" — long  hair,  flowing  tie  and 
everything — to  the  order  of  the  patron. 

The  "people  like  to  be  fooled"  said  Barnum.  But  Hubbard 
was  sharp  enough  to  see  that  the  enterprise  required  none  of 
the  elaborate  paraphernalia  of  dwarfs,  elephants  and  white 
whales  that  the  pioneer  showman  assembled.  Hubbard  was  a 
one-man  circus,  and  a  one-man  Chautauqua.  He  edited  and 
wrote  a  one-man  magazine,  The  Philistine,  and  ran  a  one-man 
strike-breaking  agency.  A  solo  artist  if  ever  there  was  one. 
True  he  had  helpers  and  disciples,  but  none  was  ever  per- 
mitted to  share  the  limelight  with  the  only  original  Fra 
Elbertus.  His  point  of  view  about  the  help  was  accurately 
expressed  in  A  Message  to  Garcia. 

It  is  not  book  learning  young  men  need,  but  a  stiffening  of  the 
rertebrae  which  will  cause  them  to  be  loyal  to  trust,  to  act  promptly, 


to  concentrate  their  energies,  do  the  thing,  "carry  a  message  to 

A  hard  taskmaster,  the  Fra,  who  got  the  efficiency  idea 
early  and  gave  it  its  necessary  ethical  and  moral  rationaliza- 
tion. Carping  critics  suggested  that  Hubbard's  chief  industry 
at  East  Aurora  was  working  his  disciples.  But  big  business 
seized  upon  A  Message  to  Garcia  as  a  revelation  from  Sinai, 
and  the  Fra  simply  coined  money  from  then  on.  Hubbard 
wrote  in  this  classic  manifesto  which  corporation  executives 
bought  and  distributed  by  the  hundred  thousand  to  their 

"He  would  drop  a  tear  for  the  men  who  are  struggling  to 
carry  on  a  great  enterprise,  whose  working  hours  are  not 
limited  by  the  whistle  and  whose  hair  is  fast  turning  white 
through  the  struggle  to  hold  in  line  dowdy  indifference,  slip- 
shod imbecility  and  heartless  ingratitude  which  but  for  their 
enterprise  would  be  both  hungry  and  homeless." 

That,  it  would  appear,  was  the  only  cause  over  which  Elbert 
Hubbard  ever  dropped  a  genuine  tear.  It  was  his  own  cause 
because  he  was  a  capitalist  in  his  own  right.  (By  1911,  his 
plant  at  East  Aurora  included  two  hotels,  a  group  of  factory 
buildings,  and  a  farm,  and  he  had  five  hundred  people  on  his 
payroll.)  It  was  also  the  cause  of  the  expanding  capitalist 
economy  and  the  correlative  acquisitive  ethic,  which  came  to 
full  maturity  during  the  two  decades  preceding  the  war. 

One  wonders  a  little  at  the  harshness  with  which  Hubbard 
rebuffed  the  craving  of  the  white-collar  slave  for  "book-learn- 
ing." He  himself  was  a  kind  of  philosophical  and  literary 
magpie  who  lined  his  nest  with  trifles  gathered  from  the  most 
recondite  sources,  both  ancient  and  modern.  These,  after  hav- 
ing received  a  Hubbardian  twist,  were  dished  up  in  the 
Philistine  and  the  Fra  as  the  authentic  pot-distilled  wisdom 
of  the  sage  of  East  Aurora. 

He  wrote  so  beautifully,  sighed  the  newspaper  critics  of 


that  May-tide  of  commercial  sentimentality  which  piled  high 
and  shattered  itself  upon  the  realities  of  the  war.  In  1915, 
Elbert  Hubbard  went  down  with  the  Lusitania,  and  the 
Literary  Digest  in  recording  the  event,  quoted  this  tribute 
by  Agnes  Herbert  which  appeared  in  the  London  Daily 

Give  me,  I  pray  you,  the  magic  of  Elbert  Hubbard.  None  of  your 
Hardys,  your  Barries,  your  Kiplings  for  me.  The  pen  of  Elbert  Hub- 
bard, an*  it  please  you.  .  .  .  Scoffers  called  him  a  literary  faker. 
On  occasion  he  was  so.  He  popularized  his  knowledge  of  the  great 
philosophers  and  transposed  them  so  that  the  man  in  the  street  who 
would  avoid  the  original  teachers  as  he  would  the  plague,  swallowed 
the  carefully  wrapped  up  wisdom  gratefully.  .  .  .  Everything 
Elbert  Hubbard  touched  was  made  beautiful  by  the  magic  of  his 
mind.  He  was  the  greatest  advertising  writer  in  the  States  and  his 
methods  turned  the  crying  of  wares  into  a  literary  adventure.  Each 
was  a  faceted  gem  not  to  be  passed  by. 

This  seems  a  little  lush,  perhaps.  The  tribute  of  one  Harold 
Bolce,  writing  under  the  title  "Hubbard,  the  Homo,  Plus"  in 
the  Cosmopolitan  for  March,  1911,  is  more  to  the  point. 

Elbert  Hubbard  realized  long  ago  that  he  was  an  heir  of  the  ages 
and  he  has  foreclosed.  He  is  rich,  happy,  healthy  and  wise.  He  has 
the  woman  he  loves.  .  .  .  He  has  struck  pay  dirt  on  Parnassus.  .  .  . 

"In  addition  to  factories  and  fields,  the  Fra  has  at  least  a  quarter 
of  a  million  followers.  Hubbard  is  not  a  crank.  'Whom  do  you 
represent?'  was  asked  of  Harriman  when  that  great  financier  was 
beginning  his  remarkable  career.  'I  represent  myself,'  was  the  reply. 
Similarly  Hubbard  does.  He  does  not  even  constitute  a  part  of 
the  movements  his  writings  have  helped  to  promote.  .  .  . 

"A  New  Thought  convention  was  in  session  at  his  inn,  the 
delegates  paying  full  rates — and  getting  their  money's  worth. 
'What  is  New  Thought?'  asked  a  journalist.  "Blamed  if  I  know,' 
said  Hubbard.  .  .  .  Mr.  Hubbard  is  sane — as  sane  as  a  cash  register. 


In  many  ways  he  is,  perhaps,  the  most  roundly  gifted  genius  since 
Benjamin  Franklin." 

The  Fra's  production  of  advertising  copy,  not  counting  his 
Little  Journeys  to  the  Homes  of  the  Great — including  the 
home  of  Lydia  Pinkham's  Vegetable  Compound — was  enor- 
mous. As  Joseph  Wood  Krutch  pointed  out  in  The  Nation, 

He  is  the  spiritual  father  of  all  the  copy  which  begins  with  an 
anecdote  about  Socrates  and  ends  with  the  adjuration  to  insist  upon 
the  only  genuine  article  in  soapless  shaving  cream.  He  taught  the 
merchant  swank. 

Toward  the  end  of  Hubbard's  career,  he  became  over- 
greedy  and  overconfident.  The  small  change  of  lecture  fees 
and  book  royalties  was  not  enough.  He  had  become  a  pretty 
important  fellow  and  felt  that  he  was  worth  important 
money.  His  price  on  one  recorded  occasion,  for  a  job  of 
literary  strike-breaking,  was  about  $200,000.  Does  this  sound 
excessive?  It  sounded  a  little  high  even  to  John  D.  Rocke- 
feller and  to  Ivy  Lee,  his  public  relations  counsel  in  the 
lamentable  affair  of  the  Colorado  Fuel  and  Iron  Company. 
The  correspondence  was  reprinted  in  Harper's  Weekly,  Jan. 
30,  1915,  under  the  title,  "Elbert  Hubbard's  Price,"  and  the 
first  letter  is  dated  June  9,  1914. 

Dear  Mr.  Rockefeller: 

I  have  been  out  in  Colorado  and  know  a  little  about  the  situation 
there.  It  seems  to  me  that  your  stand  is  eminently  right,  proper  and 
logical.  A  good  many  of  the  strikers  are  poor,  unfortunate,  ignorant 
foreigners  who  imagine  there  is  a  war  on  [the  bullets  that  riddled 
the  strikers'  tents  at  Ludlow  were  doubtless  purely  imaginary  J.  R.] 
and  that  they  are  fighting  for  liberty.  They  are  men  with  the 
fighting  habit  preyed  on  by  agitators.  .  .  . 

Hubbard  went  on  to  cite  an  article  he  had  written  about. 


the  Michigan  copper  country  and  said  he  was  writing  one 
about  Colorado.  He  mentioned  his  mailing  list  of  1,000,000 
names  of  members  of  Boards  of  Trade,  Chambers  of  Com- 
merce, Advertising  Clubs,  Rotarians,  Jovians,  schoolteachers, 
judges  and  Members  of  Congress.  He  quoted  a  price  of  $200 
a  thousand  for  extra  copies  of  the  issue  of  The  Fra  in  which 
his  planned  article  would  appear.  He  concluded: 

Just  here,  I  cannot  refrain  from  expressing  my  admiration  for 
those  very  industrious,  hard-working  people,  Bill  Haywood,  Charles 
Moyer,  Mother  Jones,  Emma  Goldman,  Lincoln  Steffens  and  Upton 
Sinclair.  Why  don't  you  benefit  the  world  ...  (by  stating  the 
Rockefellers'  side  of  the  case.  J.  R.)  ? 

Elbert  missed  out  on  that  one,  although  he  was  persistent 
enough.  He  played  golf  with  the  elder  Rockefeller.  He  wrote 
repeatedly  to  the  well-known  Mr.  Welborn,  President  of  the 
Colorado  Fuel  and  Iron  Company.  "Do  I  make  myself  clear, 
boys?"  he  seemed  to  be  saying.  He  did.  Ivy  Lee  cannily  sug- 
gested that  Elbert  be  permitted  every  facility  to  gather  ma- 
terial for  his  article.  Then  if  Mr.  Welborn  liked  it,  he  could 
doubtless  arrange  about  the  price.  Ivy  Lee  knew  his  Fra.  He 
wasn't  buying  any  pig  in  a  poke  from  Elbert  Hubbard. 

The  proposition,  as  the  editor  of  Harper's  Weekly  pointed 
out,  was  in  two  parts: 

i.)   The  Fra  offered  to  sell  his  opinion. 

2.)  The  Fra  offered  to  make  an  investigation  in  support 
of  his  opinion. 

The  Fra's  one-man  Chautauqua  came  to  Middletown,  N.  Y. 
when  the  writer  was  in  high  school  and  also  working  on  the 
local  daily  paper.  It  came  twice  in  fact.  The  first  year  Elbert 
lectured  on  The  March  of  the  Centuries.  It  was  a  hodge-podge 
of  Thoreau,  Whitman,  Emerson,  Michelangelo  and  who  not. 
I  recall  being  a  bit  puzzled,  although  I  reported  the  lecture 
respectfully  enough,  as  was  proper  considering  the  eminence 


of  the  lecturer.  The  next  year,  I  was  a  year  older  and  so  was 
the  Fra.  He  was  getting  pretty  seedy,  in  fact,  I  thought. 
Moreover,  his  lecture,  under  a  different  title,  was  word  for 
word  the  same  balderdash  he  had  given  us  the  year  before. 
The  next  day  in  the  columns  of  the  Middletown  Daily  Times- 
Press  I  took  out  after  him  with  shrill  cries  of  rage.  The  owner 
of  the  paper  was  away  and  I  had  fun.  The  piece  was  picked 
up  and  reprinted  widely.  At  the  moment,  as  I  remember  it, 
Hubbard  had  got  himself  a  rating  as  a  Bohemian  immoralist, 
so  that  the  up-state  editors  had  declared  an  open  season  on 
the  Fra. 

My  employer,  when  he  came  back,  was  horrified.  It  was  the 
first  time  in  the  history  of  his  management  that  the  paper 
had  printed  an  unkind  word  about  anybody.  But  the  Fra 
didn't  mind — it  was  just  so  much  publicity  grist  for  his  mill. 
The  public  likes  to  be  fooled. 

There  seems  to  be  nothing  final  to  say  about  Fra  Elbertus 
except  that  he  advertised  and  sold  everything  and  everybody 
he  could  lay  his  hands  on:  William  Morris,  Michelangelo, 
Thoreau,  Emerson,  Karl  Marx,  Socrates  and  Paracelsus.  And 
himself,  Elbert  Hubbard,  a  founding  father  of  the  adver- 
tising profession — "the  most  roundly  gifted  genius  since 
Benjamin  Franklin." 




ALTHOUGH  Mr.  Bruce  Barton  represents  a  logical  projec- 
tion of  the  rising  curve  along  which  we  have  traced  the  evo- 
lution of  the  American  hero,  he  is,  after  Elbert  Hubbard, 
rather  an  anti-climax.  Mr.  Barton's  role  in  the  war,  as  director 
of  publicity  for  the  Y.M.C.A.  was  comparable,  in  a  way,  to 
that  of  Jay  Cooke  in  the  Civil  War.  But  Mr.  Barton's  role 
was  much  smaller  and  the  techniques  employed  were  much 
more  impersonal  and  mechanized.  Moreover,  this  mechaniza- 
tion and  industrialization  of  sales  publicity  became  even  more 
pronounced  during  the  period  of  advertising  expansion  that 
lasted  from  the  Armistice  to  the  fall  of  1929.  It  would  seem 
that  Mr.  Barton's  distinctive  contribution  to  the  evolution 
of  the  American  hero  was  the  professionalization  of  advertis- 
ing salesmanship  and  its  sanctification  in  terms  of  a  modern- 
ized version  of  the  Protestant  Ethic.  The  analysis  is  compli- 
cated by  the  fact  that  we  are  dealing  here  with  a  contemporary 
figure  whose  career  is  not  completed;  nor  are  the  facts  of  his 
career  readily  available.  This,  however,  is  perhaps  not  so  im- 
portant as  it  might  seem.  Mr.  Barton  has  been  a  prolific 
writer,  and  it  is  with  the  evolution  of  his  thought  that  we 
are  primarily  concerned. 

The  Man  Nobody  Knows  was  published  in  1924,  the  year 
following  the  publication  of  Veblen's  Absentee  Oivnership, 
which,  in  general,  has  supplied  the  framework  of  theory  for 
this  analysis.  It  was  only  with  the  publication  of  this  book 


that  Mr.  Barton  became,  in  any  sense,  a  national  figure.  In 
retrospect  it  is  clear  that  the  ad-man's  pseudoculture  had 
already  entered  upon  its  period  of  decadence.  The  far  flung 
radiance  of  advertising  during  this  period  was  a  false  dawn; 
the  fever-flush  of  a  culture  already  doomed  and  dying  at  the 
roots.  But  it  is  precisely  in  such  periods  that  the  nature  of 
the  culture  is  most  explicitly  expressed  and  documented.  The 
Man  Nobody  Knows  is  an  almost  perfect  thing  of  its  kind: 
more  significant  and  revealing  as  a  sociological  document,  I 
think,  than  either  Barnum's  autobiography  or  Hubbard's 
Message  to  Garcia.  We  see  the  same  thing  in  the  Athens  of 
Pericles.  As  Euripides  was  to  the  more  virile  poets  of  the 
Athenian  rise  to  power,  Aeschylus  and  Sophocles,  so  Bruce 
Barton  is  to  Barnum  and  Fra  Elbertus. 

When  Mr.  Barton  published  The  Man  Nobody  Knows  he 
had  already  achieved  some  standing  as  a  writer  of  articles 
and  fiction  for  the  popular  women's  magazines  and  his  lay 
sermonettes  were  appearing  in  the  Red  Book.  The  advertising 
agency  in  which  he  was  senior  partner  was  rapidly  expand- 
ing and  the  chorus  of  applause  which  greeted  The  Man  No- 
body Knows  was  no  small  factor  in  enhancing  the  prestige 
and  profits  of  its  author's  more  strictly  secular  activities  in 
promoting  the  sale  of  such  products  as  Lysol,  Hind's  Honey 
and  Almond  Cream,  The  Harvard  Classics,  and  a  little  later, 
the  Gillette  safety  razor  and  blades. 

In  1924  the  writer  was  in  California,  employed  at  part  time 
by  a  San  Francisco  advertising  agency  and  for  the  rest,  en- 
gaged in  seeing  the  country,  writing  poetry  and  participating 
in  indigenous  cultural  enterprises  including  the  editing  of  an 
anthology  of  contemporary  California  poetry.  In  connection 
with  this  latter  enterprise,  conducted  in  collaboration  with 
Miss  Genevieve  Taggard  and  the  late  George  Sterling,  I 
encountered  the  poetry  of  Robinson  Jeffers,  whose  work  was 
then  almost  unknown  and  who  was  living  at  Carmel  on  the 
California  coast.  Greatly  excited,  I  went  to  the  editor  of  a 


magazine  published  in  San  Francisco  and  devoted  to  the  eco- 
nomic and  cultural  interests  of  the  Pacific  coast.  I  informed 
this  editor  that  California  had  a  great  poet  and  that  I  should 
like  to  call  attention  to  his  work  in  the  pages  of  the  magazine. 

It  is  at  this  point  that  Bruce  Barton  enters  the  picture. 
Shortly  before,  I  had  been  approached  by  this  editor,  or  his 
associate,  with  a  practical  proposition.  The  lay  sermons  of 
Mr.  Barton  in  the  Red  Book  were  considered  highly  edify- 
ing by  the  ex-Kansans  and  ex-Iowans  who  had  sold  their 
farms  and  come  to  sun  their  declining  years  on  the  Cali- 
fornia littoral.  The  editor  felt  that  if  he  was  to  increase  his 
circulation,  he  must  offer  equivalent  literary  and  philosophi- 
cal merchandize.  I  was  an  advertising  man.  Mr.  Barton  was 
an  advertising  man.  Couldn't  I  write  something  just  as  good 
as  Mr.  Barton's  sermonettes? 

I  tried.  As  I  studied  my  model  it  seemed  a  simple  enough 
task.  I,  too,  could  quote  Socrates,  and  Emerson,  and  Lincoln. 
I  had  the  requisite  theological  background — my  grandfather 
had  been  a  shouting  Methodist.  And  as  for  the  style,  I,  too, 
I  thought,  could  be  simple  though  erudite,  chaste  though 
human,  practical  but  portentous. 

Well,  I  wore  out  one  whole  typewriter  ribbon  on  that  job 
and  produced  nothing  but  sour  parodies.  Some  imp  of  per- 
versity stood  at  my  shoulder  and  whispered  obscenities  into 
my  ear.  I  quoted  Marx  when  I  had  intended  to  quote  Napo- 
leon or  Benjamin  Franklin.  Desperately  I  tried  to  shake  off 
this  incubus.  Once  I  started  with  a  quotation  from  Louisa 
May  Alcott,  but  when  I  pulled  it  out  of  the  typewriter  it 
read  like  a  contribution  to  Captain  Billy's  Whizbang. 

Some  of  the  least  awful  of  my  efforts  I  submitted  to  my 
prospective  employer.  He  shook  his  head.  They  lacked  the 
human  touch,  he  said.  As  a  matter  of  fact,  they  were  human, 
all  too  human.  My  spirit  was  willing  but  the  flesh  was  weak. 

The  editor  was  kindly  and  told  me  to  keep  trying.  I  was 
still  supposed  to  be  trying  when  I  came  in  to  bring  up  the 


matter  of  Robinson  Jeffers.  As  I  recall  it,  there  was  some  con- 
fusion on  that  occasion.  The  editor  was  still  hot  on  the  trail 
of  a  Bruce  Barton  ersatz  and  he  couldn't  get  it  through  his 
head  that  I  was  talking  about  something  else.  When  I  finally 
managed  to  get  within  hailing  distance  of  his  attention,  he 
consented  reluctantly  to  print  an  unpaid  review  of  Jeffers' 
privately  printed  Tamar.  The  magazine  did  print  part  of  my 
review  but  the  editor  wrote  a  footnote  in  which  he  dissented 
strongly  from  my  enthusiasm. 

About  two  years  later,  I  saw  a  copy  of  a  magazine  pub- 
lished at  the  Carmel  artists'  colony.  The  center  spread  was 
an  advertisement  of  a  Carmel  realtor  headed  "Carmel,  the 
Home  of  Jeffers."  That  gave  me  pause.  If  I  had  only  gone  to 
the  realtors  in  the  first  place,  I  reflected,  I  might  have  made 
better  headway  with  that  Jeffers'  promotion.  Later,  too,  I 
came  to  understand  why  I  had  failed  so  miserably  in  my 
attempt  to  imitate  those  Barton  sermonettes.  The  simple  fact 
that  they  were  advertisements  had  never  occurred  to  me.  They 
were  and  are  advertisements,  designed  to  sell  the  American 
pseudoculture  to  itself. 

I  was  used  to  writing  advertisements.  Maybe,  if  I  had  tried, 
I  could  have  written  correct  imitations  of  Mr.  Barton's  adver- 
tisements of  obscure  but  contented  earthworms,  of  the  virtues 
of  industry  and  diligence,  of  the  vanity  of  fame.  Also,  maybe 
not.  Mr.  Barton  may  be  only  a  minor  artist,  but  I  suspect 
that  he  is  inimitable. 

The  digression  is  perhaps  excusable  in  that  it  reveals  the 
early  spread  of  the  Barton  influence  as  compared  with  that 
of  a  major  poet  of  the  era  whom  the  average  American  has 
never  heard  of.  By  the  time  I  returned  to  New  York,  Mr. 
Barton  had  published  The  Man  Nobody  Knows  and  was  soon 
a  national  figure  comparable  in  influence  to  Henry  Ward 
Beecher.  Instead  of  preaching  in  Plymouth  Church,  he  was 
the  honored  guest  at  luncheons  of  Rotary  and  Kiwanis  clubs 
and  Chambers  of  Commerce.  Instead  of  editing  a  religious 


journal — early  in  his  career  he  had  edited  the  short-lived 
Every  Week — his  syndicated  sermonettes  were  published  in 
hundreds  of  newspapers.  A  professor  of  homiletics  in  a  well- 
known  seminary  has  assured  me  that  the  influence  of  Mr. 
Barton's  writings  upon  the  Protestant  Church  in  America  has 
been  enormous.  The  son  of  a  clergyman,  brought  up  in  a  small 
Middle-Western  city,  not  unlike  the  "Middletown"  so  ably 
described  by  the  Lynds,  he  learned  early  the  lessons  of  pious 
emulation  and  of  "salesmanlike  pusillanimity"  which  were  the 
ineluctable  patterns  of  behavior  for  all  young  men  of  good 
family.  And  Mr.  Barton's  family  was  excellent.  His  father 
was  not  merely  a  popular  and  respected  preacher  but  a  scholar 
of  parts,  author  of  a  not  undistinguished  life  of  Lincoln.  But 
this  distinction,  in  the  early  years  at  least,  brought  no  propor- 
tionate pecuniary  rewards.  So  Bruce  suffered  the  typical  ordeal 
of  the  minister's  son.  He  had  the  entree  to  the  best  houses  in 
the  community  but  no  money  with  which  to  compete  in  the 
local  arena  of  conspicuous  waste,  pecuniary  snobbism,  etc. 

Here  we  have  the  two  opposing  absolutes  which,  in  his  later 
creative  years,  Mr.  Barton  undertook  to  reconcile:  the  quite 
genuine  Christian  piety,  and  enforced  asceticism  of  the  par- 
sonage, and  the  "spirit  of  self-help  and  collusive  cupidity 
that  made  and  animated  the  country  town  at  its  best."  The 
quotation  is  from  Veblen's  study  of  the  country  town  in 
Absentee  Ownership.  The  neo-Calvinist  ethical  rationaliza- 
tions described  by  Max  Weber  are  brought  into  sharp  relief 
by  Veblen's  analysis.  In  the  following  passage  he  seems  almost 
to  be  laying  down  the  ideological  ground  plan  for  Mr.  Bar- 
ton's subsequent  career.  Says  Veblen: 

Solvency  not  only  puts  a  man  in  the  way  of  acquiring  merit,  but 
it  makes  him  over  into  a  substantial  citizen  whose  opinions  and 
preferences  have  weight  and  who  is,  therefore,  enabled  to  do  much 
good  for  his  fellow  citizens — that  is  to  say,  shape  them  somewhat 
to  his  own  pattern.  To  create  mankind  in  one's  own  image  is  a 


work  that  partakes  of  the  divine,  and  it  is  a  high  privilege  which 
the  substantial  citizen  commonly  makes  the  most  of.  Evidently  this 
salesmanlike  pursuit  of  the  net  gain  has  a  high  cultural  value  at  the 
same  time  that  it  is  invaluable  as  a  means  to  a  competence. 

One  must  not  be  misled  into  regarding  Mr.  Barton's  specific 
contribution  as  of  the  iconoclastic  or  creative  sort.  He  found 
ready  to  hand  the  ethical  code  and  the  theological  rationaliza- 
tion of  this  code.  His  task  was  merely  that  of  the  continuer, 
the  popularizer.  Here  in  Veblen's  words  is  a  formulation, 
complete  in  all  essentials,  of  the  idealistic  code  of  the  adver- 
tising agency  business,  of  which  Mr.  Barton  was  to  become  so 

distinguished  an  ornament: 


The  country  town  and  the  business  of  its  substantial  citizens  are 
and  have  ever  been  an  enterprise  in  salesmanship;  and  the  begin- 
ning of  wisdom  in  salesmanship  is  equivocation.  There  is  a  decent 
measure  of  equivocation  which  runs  its  course  on  the  hither  side  of 
prevarication  or  duplicity,  and  an  honest  salesman — such  "an  honest 
man  as  will  bear  watching" — will  endeavor  to  confine  his  best 
efforts  to  this  highly  moral  zone  where  stands  the  upright  man  who 
is  not  under  oath  to  tell  the  whole  truth.  But  "self-preservation 
knows  no  moral  law";  and  it  is  not  to  be  overlooked  that  there 
habitually  enter  into  the  retail  trade  of  the  country  towns  many 
competitors  who  do  not  falter  at  prevarication  and  who  even  do  not 
hesitate  at  outright  duplicity;  and  it  will  not  do  for  an  honest  man 
to  let  the  rogues  get  away  with  the  best — or  any — of  the  trade, 
at  the  risk  of  too  narrow  a  margin  of  profit  on  his  own  business — 
that  is  to  say  a  narrower  margin  than  might  be  had  in  the  absence 
of  scruple.  And  then  there  is  always  the  base  line  of  what  the  la\r 
allows;  and  what  the  law  allows  can  not  be  far  wrong. 

When  Mr.  Barton  was  going  to  high  school  and  Sunday 
school,  one  of  the  things  he  could  scarcely  help  noticing  was 
the  characteristic  red  store  front  of  the  A.  &  P.  Big  Business 
was  beginning  to  build  the  distributive  counterpart  of  the 


emerging  system  of  mass  production.  Veblen  notes  this  transi- 
tion as  follows: 

Toward  the  close  of  the  century,  and  increasingly  since  the  turn 
of  the  century,  the  trading  community  of  the  country  towns  has 
been  losing  its  initiative  as  a  maker  of  charges  and  has  by  degrees 
become  tributary  to  the  great  vested  interests  that  move  in  the 
background  of  the  market.  In  a  way  the  country  towns  have  in  an 
appreciable  degree  fallen  into  the  position  of  tollgate  keepers  for 
the  distribution  of  goods  and  collection  of  customs  for  the  large 
absentee  owners  of  the  business. 

Mr.  Barton's  eminence  both  as  advertising  man  and  as  an 
author  became  established  during  the  postwar  decade.  As 
most  people  realize  by  this  time,  the  catastrophic  economic 
and  cultural  effects  of  the  war  were  deferred  and  postdated 
so  far  as  America  was  concerned.  This  postdating  was  ac- 
complished by  salesmanship  and  promotion  applied  to  new 
industries — notably  automobiles,  the  movies  and  radio.  It  was 
without  doubt  the  rankest  period  of  financial  and  commercial 
thievery  in  our  whole  history.  Salesmanship  became  a  thing-in- 
itself,  incorporated,  watered,  reorganized,  re-watered,  aided 
and  abetted  by  the  state,  and  then  duly  sanctified  and  vali- 
dated under  the  Constitution.  Veblen's  concept  of  Absentee 
Ownership  became  less  and  less  descriptive  of  the  actual  situa- 
tion in  which  the  going  rule  became:  "never  give  a  stock- 
holder a  break."  The  more  realistic  terms  were  no  longer  own- 
ers and  managers  but  "insiders"  and  "outsiders."  One  has 
only  to  refer  to  the  Insull  affair,  and  to  the  exploits  of  Messrs. 
Mitchell  and  Wiggin  of  the  financial  oligarchy,  to  establish  the 
justice  of  this  description.  The  reductio  ad  absurdum  of  the 
capitalist  economy  was  accomplished  by  the  "profitless  pros- 
perity" of  the  New  Era.  It  will  remain  Mr.  Barton's  undying 
distinction  that,  in  The  Man  Nobody  Knows,  he  accomplished 
the  reductio  ad  absurdum  of  "the  Protestant  Ethic." 


With  this  background  we  are  now  in  a  position  to  give  Mr. 
Barton's  masterpiece  the  sober  and  respectful  attention  which 
it  should  long  ago  have  received  at  the  hands  of  sociologists 
and  literary  critics.  It  is  worth  recalling  that  Henry  Ward 
Beecher,  too,  wrote  a  life  of  Christ  and  that  Elbert  Hubbard, 
albeit  a  free  thinker,  was  also  faithful  after  his  fashion  in  that 
he  did  not  fail  to  exploit  such  elements  of  the  Christian  tradi- 
tion as  suited  his  market.  The  Christs  of  Renan,  of  Nietzsche, 
of  Henry  Ward  Beecher,  of  Elbert  Hubbard,  of  Giovanni 
Papini,  of  Bruce  Barton — these  and  other  interpretations  of 
the  Christ  figure  should  provide  an  interesting  and  instruc- 
tive gallery  for  the  student  of  human  ecology.  But  in  the 
space  at  our  disposal  here  we  must  confine  ourselves  to  Mr. 
Barton's  Christ.  Clearly  Mr.  Barton  felt  that  if  the  Saviour 
was  to  live  again  in  the  mind  and  heart  of  the  twentieth  cen- 
tury American  business  man,  a  radical  though  reverent  recon- 
struction of  the  legendary  Christ  was  required. 

The  first  point  to  note  about  The  Man  Nobody  Knows  is 
that  the  book  is  an  advertisement.  Mr.  Barton  is  clearly  en- 
gaged in  "selling"  the  twentieth  century  American  sales  and 
advertising  executive  to  the  country  at  large  and  to  himself. 
This  secondary  aspect  of  Mr.  Barton's  unique  promotion  en- 
terprise is  very  important.  It  must  be  remembered  that  in 
terms  of  social  prestige  the  big-time  salesman,  and  especially 
the  advertising  man,  was  still,  in  1924,  an  upstart  and  a 
parvenu;  this  in  spite  of  the  strategic,  even  crucial  impor- 
tance of  the  salesman,  the  promoter,  the  advertising  man  in 
the  struggle  of  business  to  keep  the  disruptive  force  of  ap- 
plied science  from  destroying  the  capitalist  economy.  In  1924 
we  were  already  face  to  face  with  the  tragi-comic  social  para- 
dox which  Stuart  Chase  describes  in  his  Economy  of  Abun- 
dance. The  only  method  of  resolving  that  paradox  open  to  the 
business  man  was  to  sell  more  goods  at  a  profit  and,  when  the 


"sales  resistance"  of  a  progressively  dis-employed  population 
couldn't  be  broken  down,  to  sabotage  industry  by  monopoly 
control  of  production  and  prices. 

So  Mr.  Barton  was  the  man  of  the  hour  on  more  than  one 
count.  Despite  the  stout  labors  of  P.  T.  Barnum,  Elbert  Hub- 
bard  and  others,  advertising  still  bore  the  stigma  of  its  patent 
medicine  origins.  In  the  callous  view  of  the  crowd,  the  ad- 
man still  wore  the  rattlesnake  belt  and  brandished  the  pills 
of  the  medicine  man  who,  in  the  light  of  flaring  gasoline 
torches,  had  for  many  decades  been  giving  the  admiring  citi- 
zens of  Veblen's  "country  town"  practical  lessons  in  the 
theory  of  business  enterprise  and  the  uses  of  salesmanlike 

But  times  had  changed.  Advertising  on  the  grand  scale  had 
become  an  industry  no  less  essential  than  coal  or  steel.  It  had 
become  a  profession  endorsed,  sanctified  and  subsidized  by 
dozens  of  Greek-porticoed  "Schools  of  Business  Administra- 
tion" in  which  a  new  priesthood  of  "business  economists" 
translated  the  techniques  of  mass  prevarication  into  suitable 
academic  euphemisms.  Advertising — in  other  words,  mass 
cozenage — had  become  a  major  function  of  business  man- 
agement. The  ad-man  had  become  the  first  lieutenant  of  the 
new  Caesars  of  America's  commercial  imperium — not  merely 
on  the  economic  front  but  also  on  the  cultural  front. 

The  rattlesnake  belt  and  the  gasoline  torch  were  no  longer 
appropriate  for  so  eminent  a  functionary.  They  must  be 
burned,  buried,  destroyed,  forgotten.  The  ad-man  needed 
glorification  and  needed  it  badly. 

It  was  to  this  task  that  Mr.  Barton  addressed  himself  with 
an  elan,  an  imaginative  sweep  and  daring  that  can  be  ade- 
quately characterized  only  by  the  word  "genius."  Consider 
the  magnitude  of  the  enterprise.  It  was  necessary  not  merely 


to  reconcile  the  ways  of  the  ad-man  to  God,  but  to  redeem 
and  rehabilitate  a  tedious  and  discredited  Saviour  in  the  eyes 
of  a  faithless  and  materialist  generation.  Mr.  Barton  accom- 
plished both  of  these  stupendous  tasks  in  a  single  brief  book. 
And  he  was  able  to  do  this  because,  as  a  true  son  of  his  father, 
he  had  not  fallen  from  grace.  Like  a  modern  Sir  Galahad,  his 
strength  was  as  the  strength  of  ten  because  his  heart  was  pure. 
He  was  sincere. 

I  am  aware  that  certain  readers,  who  have  not  had  the 
benefits  of  Mr.  Barton's  strict  upbringing,  will  probably 
question  this  statement.  I  can  only  invite  them  to  consider 
the  evidence. 

In  the  best  homiletic  tradition,  Mr.  Barton  starts  with  a 
scriptural  text: 

"Wist  ye  not  that  I  must  be  about  my  Father's  Business?" 
(The  italics  are  Mr.  Barton's.) 

The  people  settle  back  in  their  pews,  the  little  boy  in  the 
second  row  finds  a  safe  cache  for  his  gum,  the  rustle  of  gar- 
ments ceases,  and  the  little  boy  hears  the  preface  of  Mr.  Bar- 
ton's great  book  entitled  "How  it  came  to  be  written." 

The  little  boy's  body  sat  bolt  upright  in  the  rough  wooden  chair, 
but  his  mind  was  very  busy. 

This  was  his  weekly  hour  of  revolt. 

The  kindly  lady  who  could  never  seem  to  find  her  glasses  would 
have  been  terribly  shocked  if  she  had  known  what  was  going  on 
inside  the  little  boy's  mind. 

"You  must  love  Jesus,"  she  said  every  Sunday,  "and  God." 

The  little  boy  did  not  say  anything.  He  was  afraid  to  say  any- 
thing; he  was  almost  afraid  that  something  would  happen  to  him 
because  of  the  things  he  thought. 

Love  God!  Who  was  always  picking  on  people  for  having  a  good 
time,  and  sending  little  boys  to  hell  because  they  couldn't  do  better 
in  a  world  which  He  had  made  so  hard!  Why  didn't  God  take  some 
one  His  own  size? 

Love  Jesus!  The  little  boy  looked  up  at  the  picture  which  hung 


on  the  Sunday  school  wall.  It  showed  a  pale  young  man  with  flabby 
forearms  and  a  sad  expression.  The  young  man  had  red  whiskers. 

Then  the  little  boy  looked  across  to  the  other  wall.  There  was 
Daniel,  good  old  Daniel,  standing  off  the  lions.  The  little  boy  liked 
Daniel.  He  liked  David,  too,  with  the  trusty  sling  that  landed  a 
stone  square  on  the  forehead  of  Goliath.  And  Moses,  with  his  rod 
and  his  big  brass  snake.  They  were  winners — those  three.  He  won- 
dered if  David  could  whip  Jeffries.  Samson  could!  Say,  that  would 
have  been  a  fight! 

But  Jesus!  Jesus  was  the  "lamb  of  God."  The  little  boy  did  not 
know  what  that  meant,  but  it  sounded  like  Mary's  little  lamb. 
Something  for  girls — sissified.  Jesus  was  also  "meek  and  lowly,"  a 
"man  of  sorrows  and  acquainted  with  grief."  He  went  around  for 
three  years  telling  people  not  to  do  things. 

Sunday  was  Jesus'  day;  it  was  wrong  to  feel  comfortable  or  laugh 
on  Sunday. 

The  little  boy  was  glad  when  the  superintendent  thumped  the 
bell  and  announced:  "We  will  now  sing  the  closing  hymn."  One 
more  bad  hour  was  over.  For  one  more  week  the  little  boy  had  got 
rid  of  Jesus. 

Years  went  by  and  the  boy  grew  up  and  became  a  business  man. 

He  began  to  wonder  about  Jesus. 

He  said  to  himself:  "Only  strong  magnetic  men  inspire  great 
enthusiasm  and  build  great  organizations.  Yet  Jesus  built  the  great- 
est organization  of  all.  It  is  extraordinary.  .  .  ." 

He  said,  "I  will  read  what  the  men  who  knew  Jesus  personally 
said  about  Him.  I  will  read  about  Him  as  though  He  were  a  new 
historical  character,  about  whom  I  had  never  heard  anything  at  all." 

The  man  was  amazed. 

A  physical  weakling!  Where  did  they  get  that  idea?  Jesus  pushed 
a  plane  and  swung  an  adze;  He  was  a  successful  carpenter.  He 
slept  outdoors  and  spent  His  days  walking  around  His  favorite 
lake.  His  muscles  were  so  strong  that  when  He  drove  the  money- 
changers out,  nobody  dared  to  oppose  Him! 

A  kill-joy!  He  was  the  most  popular  dinner  guest  in  Jerusalem! 
The  criticism  which  proper  people  made  was  that  he  spent  too 
much  time  with  publicans  and  sinners  (very  good  fellows,  on  the 

whole,  the  man  thought)  and  enjoyed  society  too  much.  They 
called  Him  a  "wine  bibber  and  a  gluttonous  man." 

A  failure!  He  picked  up  twelve  men  from  the  bottom  ranks  of 
business  and  forged  them  into  an  organization  that  conquered  the 

When  the  man  had  finished  his  reading  he  exclaimed,  "This  is  a 
man  nobody  knows." 

"Some  day,"  said  he,  "some  one  will  write  a  book  about  Jesus. 
Every  business  man  will  read  it  and  send  it  to  his  partners  and  his 
salesmen.  For  it  will  tell  the  story  of  the  founder  of  modern  busi- 

Note  the  "action  pattern"  suggested  in  the  last  sentence. 
It  is  a  recognized  device  of  advertising  copy  technique:  "Mail 
the  coupon  today!"  "Look  for  the  trade-mark!"  "Send  no 
money,"  etc.  Business  men  got  the  point  and  distributed 
thousands  of  copies  of  the  book.  In  fact  no  other  lay  sermon, 
save  only  Elbert  Hubbard's  Message  to  Garcia,  has  been  so 
generously  subsidized  in  this  way. 

Note,  too,  the  evocation  of  the  "little  boy"  who  is,  of 
course,  Mr.  Barton  himself.  But  he  is  also  all  the  other  little 
boys  who  had  squirmed  in  those  straight  pews  of  the  Protes- 
tant Communion  and  now  ruled  the  church  of  business.  Out 
of  the  mouths  of  babes.  Mr.  Barton,  who  is,  in  fact,  a  re- 
markable example  of  arrested  development,  didn't  have  to 
get  down  on  his  hands  and  knees  to  play  church  with  these 
children.  Standing  upright  and  fearless,  he  saw  eye  to  eye 
with  every  fourteen-year-old  intelligence  in  the  hierarchy 
of  business. 

The  process  of  imaginative  identification  with  the  Saviour, 
suggested  in  the  preface,  is  continued  in  a  sequence  of  logical 
and  reverent  chapters:  "The  Executive,"  "The  Outdoor 
Man,"  "The  Sociable  Man,"  "His  Method,"  "His  Advertise- 
ments," "The  Founder  of  Modern  Business,"  "The  Master." 

It  is  regrettable  that  space  is  lacking  for  extensive  quota- 


tion.  No  paraphrase  of  Mr.  Barton's  remarkable  chronicle 
can  do  more  than  faintly  suggest  the  apostolic  glow  and  con- 
viction of  the  original.  In  the  first  chapter  he  notes  that  the 
great  Nazarene,  like  all  successful  business  executives,  was 
above  personal  resentments  and  petty  irritations.  When  the 
disciples,  weary  at  the  end  of  the  day,  were  rebuffed  by  in- 
hospitable villagers,  they  urged  Jesus  to  call  down  fire  from 
heaven  and  destroy  them.  Here  is  Mr.  Barton's  imaginative 
rendering  of  the  Saviour's  behavior  on  this  occasion: 

There  are  times  when  nothing  a  man  can  say  is  nearly  so  power- 
ful as  saying  nothing.  Every  executive  knows  that  instinctively. 
To  argue  brings  him  down  to  the  level  of  those  with  whom  he 
argues;  silence  convicts  them  of  their  folly;  they  wish  they  had  not 
spoken  so  quickly;  they  wonder  what  he  thinks.  The  lips  of  Jesus 
tightened;  His  fine  features  showed  the  strain  of  the  preceding 
weeks  and  in  His  eyes  there  was  a  foreshadowing  of  the  more  bitter 
weeks  to  come.  .  .  .  He  had  so  little  time,  and  they  were  con- 
stantly wasting  His  time.  ...  He  had  come  to  save  mankind, 
and  they  wanted  Him  to  gratify  His  personal  resentment  by  burn- 
ing up  a  village! 

So,  in  later  years,  Mr.  Barton,  like  Jesus,  like  Lincoln,  knew 
how  to  ignore  the  jeers  of  captious  critics.  He  was  a  personage 
and  knew  it.  He  had  important  work  to  do.  He  had  to  write 
with  his  own  hand  the  advertising  message  of  important 
Christian  advertisers,  Jewish  advertisers  and — just  advertisers. 
And  he  had  to  direct  the  work  of  others  and  endure,  like 
Jesus,  the  stupidity  and  folly  of  his  helpers;  like  Elbert  Hub- 
bard,  he  was  sometimes  moved  to  cry  out  against  the  "slip- 
shod imbecility  and  heartless  ingratitude  which  but  for  their 
enterprise  would  be  both  hungry  and  homeless."  Once  in  a 
symposium  on  what  the  advertising  agency  business  most 
needed,  he  wrote,  "God  give  us  men." 

It  would  seem  probable,  too,  that  Mr.  Barton  was  not  un- 


mindful  of  the  career  of  his  great  predecessor,  Fra  Elbertus. 
Did  Mr.  Barton  think  of  himself  as  playing  Jesus  to  the  Fra's. 
John  the  Baptist?  Probably  not,  but  the  following  passage 
suggests  the  comparison: 

Another  young  man  had  grown  up  near  by  and  was  beginning  to 
be  heard  from  in  the  larger  world.  His  name  was  John.  How  much 
the  two  boys  may  have  seen  of  each  other  we  do  not  know;  but 
certainly  the  younger,  Jesus,  looked  up  to  and  admired  his  hand- 
some, fearless  cousin.  We  can  imagine  with  what  eager  interest  he 
must  have  received  the  reports  of  John's  impressive  success  at  the 
capital.  He  was  the  sensation  of  the  season.  The  fashionable  folk 
of  the  city  were  flocking  out  to  the  river  to  hear  his  denunciations; 
some  of  them  even  accepted  his  demand  for  repentance  and  were 
baptized.  ...  A  day  came  when  he  (Jesus)  was  missing  from  the 
carpenter  shop;  the  sensational  news  spread  through  the  streets  that 
he  had  gone  to  Jerusalem,  to  John,  to  be  baptized. 

Why  boys  leave  home.  Another  bright  young  man  digs 
himself  out  of  the  sticks  and  goes  to  the  big  town  to  make 
his  fortune. 

In  the  chapter  entitled  "The  Outdoor  Man"  Mr.  Barton 
undertakes  to  prove  that  Jesus  was  what  is  known  as  a  he-man, 
somewhat  resembling  Mr.  Barton  himself  in  stature  and 
physique.  In  support  of  this  contention  he  points  out: 

1.  He  was  a  carpenter  and  carpenters  develop  powerful 
forearms.  No  weakling  could  have  wielded  the  whip  that 
drove  the  money-changers  from  the  temple. 

2.  He  was  attractive  to  women,  including  "Mary  and 
Martha,  two  gentle  maiden  ladies  who  lived  outside  Jerusa- 
lem" and  Mary  Magdalene,  whose  sins  he  forgave. 

In  "The  Sociable  Man"  Jesus  is  seen  at  the  Marriage  Feast 
of  Cana.  If  not  the  life  of  the  party  He  is  at  least  genial  and 
tactful.  The  wine  gives  out  and  Mr.  Barton  exclaims:  "Pic- 
ture if  you  will  the  poor  woman's  chagrin.  This  was  her 


daughter's  wedding — the  one  social  event  in  the  life  of  the 
family."  So  Jesus,  to  uphold  the  family's  middle-class  dignity 
turns  the  water  into  wine. 

"His  Method"  describes  the  selling  campaigns  of  the  ob- 
scure Nazarene  through  which  he  climbed  to  the  distinction 
of  being  the  "most  popular  dinner  guest  in  Jerusalem."  Paul, 
especially,  impresses  Mr.  Barton — Paul,  who  was  "all  things 
to  all  men"  and  who  became  the  hero  of  Mr.  Barton's  latest 
book,  He  Upset  The  World. 

"Surely,"  remarks  Mr.  Barton,  "no  one  will  consider  us 
lacking  in  reverence  if  we  say  that  every  one  of  the  'prin- 
ciples of  modern  salesmanship'  on  which  business  men  so 
much  pride  themselves,  are  brilliantly  exemplified  in  Jesus' 
talk  and  work." 

The  final  conference  with  the  disciples  is  presented  as  a 
kind  of  "pep"  talk  similar  to  those  by  which,  during  the  late 
New  Era,  the  salesmen  of  South  American  bonds  were  nerved 
to  go  forth  and  gather  in  the  savings  of  widows  and  orphans. 

"His  Advertisements"  in  Mr.  Barton's  view  were  the  mir- 
acles. Here  is  the  way  one  of  them,  according  to  Mr.  Barton, 
might  have  been  reported  in  the  Capernaum  News: 




"BUT     ANYWAY     I     CAN     WALK,"     HEALED 

In  the  parables,  especially,  says  Mr.  Barton,  the  Master 
wrote  admirable  advertising  copy,  and  laid  the  foundations 
of  the  profession  to  which  Mr.  Barton  pays  this  eloquent 


As  a  profession  advertising  is  young;  as  a  force  it  is  as  old  as  the 
world.  The  first  four  words  uttered,  "Let  there  be  light,"  consti- 
tute its  charter. 

In  "The  Founder  of  Modern  Business"  Mr.  Barton  finds 
Jesus'  recipe  for  success  in  the  following  scriptural  quotation: 

Whosoever  will  be  great  among  you,  shall  be  your  minister;  and 
whosoever  of  you  will  be  the  chiefest,  shall  be  servant  of  all. 

Mr.  Barton  is  quick  to  identify  this  as  the  modern  "Serv- 
ice" creed  of  Rotary.  He  says: 

.  .  .  quite  suddenly,  Business  woke  up  to  a  great  discovery.  You 
will  hear  that  discovery  proclaimed  in  every  sales  convention  as 
something  distinctly  modern  and  up  to  date.  It  is  emblazoned  on 
the  advertising  pages  of  every  magazine. 

One  gets  fed  up  with  this  sort  of  thing  rather  easily.  Ad- 
dicts of  the  faith  who  find  their  appetite  for  the  gospel  ac- 
cording to  Bruce  Barton  unappeased  by  the  foregoing  quo- 
tations, are  urged  to  consult  the  original.  The  book  ran  into 
many  editions  and  duly  took  its  place  on  the  meagre  book- 
shelves of  the  American  Babbitry,  alongside  of  the  First 
Success  Story — Benjamin  Franklin's  Autobiography,  the 
Second  Success  Story — P.  T.  Barnum's  Autobiography,  and 
a  de  luxe  edition  of  Elbert  Hubbard's  The  Message  to  Garcia. 

In  due  course,  Mr.  Barton's  great  book  was  made  into  a 
movie,  which  enjoyed  some  success  and  further  extended  the 
popularity  and  influence  of  the  author.  So  far  as  I  know,  no 
attempt  has  been  made  to  sculpture  Mr.  Barton's  re-carpen- 
tered Carpenter  in  wood,  plaster  or  papier-mache.  It  would 
seem  that  the  dissemination  of  the  new  icon  might  well  have 
been  put  on  a  mass-production,  mass-distribution  basis,  like 
that  of  the  Kewpie  doll,  and  Mickey  Mouse.  The  neglect  of 


this  logical  extension  of  business  enterprise  is  possibly  attribut- 
able to  the  jealous  opposition  of  the  vested  interests  concerned 
with  the  ancient  Propagation  of  the  Faith,  to  which  Veblen 
refers  in  a  passage  already  quoted. 

The  Man  Nobody  Knows  was  preceded  by  a  relatively  un- 
successful lay  sermon  entitled  What  Can  A  Man  Believe?  It 
was  followed  by  The  Book  Nobody  Knows,  a  volume  of  Old 
and  New  Testament  exegesis,  done  with  Mr.  Barton's  char- 
acteristic unconventional  charm,  which  found  much  favor 
in  church  circles,  and  among  Christian  business  men.  A  col- 
lection of  Mr.  Barton's  syndicated  sermonettes  has  been  pub- 
lished under  the  title  On  the  Up  and  Up.  One  finishes  the 
reading  of  this  volume  convinced  more  than  ever  that  Mr. 
Barton  is  sincere.  Take,  for  example,  the  quite  charming  little 
essay  entitled  "Real  Pleasures,"  in  which  the  author  describes 
his  delight  in  "walking  along  Fifth  Avenue,  looking  in  the 
shop  windows,  and  making  a  mental  inventory  of  the  things 
I  don't  want."  This,  from  the  head  of  one  of  America's 
largest  advertising  agencies,  is  sheer  heresy.  But  Mr.  Barton, 
being  exempt  from  the  "vice  of  little  minds,"  is  full  of  her- 
esies. Elsewhere  he  praises  the  simple  joys  of  primitive  coun- 
try living.  And  when  asked  by  "Advertising  and  Selling"  to 
contribute  his  professional  credo  to  a  running  symposium 
which  included  the  leading  advertising  men  in  America,  Mr. 
Barton  went  much  farther  than  any  other  contributor  in 
recognizing,  by  implication  at  least,  the  inflated  and  exploita- 
tive nature  of  the  business,  and  in  predicting  the  present 
drive  for  government-determined  standards  and  grades.  It 
should  be  added  that  his  firm  has  for  many  years  been  con- 
sidered rather  exceptionally  "ethical"  in  its  practice;  that  it 
has  never  used  bought  or  paid-for  testimonials;  that  it  has 
declined  much  profitable  business  on  ethical  grounds;  that 
it  has  doubtless  tried  to  give  its  clients  a  fair  break  always, 
and  the  public  as  much  of  a  break  as  considerations  of  prac- 
tical business  expediency  permitted.  There  are  a  number  of 


agencies  of  which  this  may  be  said,  and  it  isn't  saying  much. 
Mr.  Barton's  firm,  operating  well  within  the  existing  code  of 
commercial  morality,  and  even  striving  sincerely  to  advance 
and  stiffen  that  code,  has  sponsored  and  produced  huge 
quantities  of  advertising  bunk,  of  expedient  half-truths,  etc. 
— that  being  the  nature  of  the  business. 

It  is  clear  that  in  Mr.  Barton  we  have  at  least  four  per- 

1.  The  Sunday  School  boy  who  hated  the  Calvinist  Christ 
(the  Beecher  complex) ; 

2.  The   infantile,  extraverted,   climbing  American   who 
created  that  grotesque  ad-man  Christ  in  his  own  image,  as  a 
kind   of  institutionalized,   salesmanlike   tailor's   dummy,   to 
serve  as  a  kind  of  robot  reception  clerk  for  the  front  office 
of  Big  Business. 

3.  The  timid  but  talented  minor  essayist  and  dilettante 
who,  given  different  circumstances,  and  subjected  to  a  dif- 
ferent set  of  social  compulsions,  might  have  produced  a  con- 
siderable body  of  charming  and  more  or  less  scholarly  prose; 
who  might  even  have  come  to  understand  something  of  the 
meaning  of  the  Christ  legend  and  of  the  ethical  values  by 
which  a  civilization  lives  or  dies. 

4.  The  intelligent,  acquisitive,  informed  man  of  affairs 
who  knows  a  little  of  what  it  is  all  about,  but  lacks  the  nerve 
to  do  anything  about  it,  except  by  intermittently  adult  fits 
and  starts.  Good  old  Daniel!  Just  what  lions  has  Mr.  Barton 
ever  fought  honestly  and  fought  to  a  finish? 

An  interesting  figure,  slighter  on  the  whole  than  either 
Beecher  or  Hubbard,  but  more  complex,  perhaps,  than  either. 
It  was  the  institutionalized  and  syndicated  Barton  that  came 
to  the  fore  again  in  his  last  book  He  Upset  the  World,  which 
was  excellently  reviewed  by  Mr.  Irving  Fineman,  the  novelist, 
in  the  magazine  Opinion  for  April  25,  1932.  Mr.  Fineman 
notes  that  Mr.  Barton  has  become  a  little  patronizing  in  his 
attitude  toward  The  Man.  He  knows  Him  better  now,  per- 


haps;  certainly  he  recognizes  that  St.  Paul  was  a  better  busi- 
ness man.  Says  Mr.  Fineman:  "It  is  a  bit  shocking,  no  later 
than  the  twentieth  page  of  this  book,  to  find  Bruce  Barton 
censuring  Jesus — however  gently!  'He  had  no  fixed  method, 
no  business-like  program.  .  .  .  He  came  not  to  found  a 
church  or  to  formulate  a  creed;  He  came  to  lead  a  life.'  So 
that,  once  having  assigned  to  each  his  job — to  Jesus,  as  it 
were,  the  divinely  pure  genius,  and  to  Paul,  the  hustling,  mun- 
dane entrepreneur — it  becomes  a  simple  matter  for  Mr.  Barton 
to  accept,  indulgently,  the  impracticality  of  the  one,  who 
hadn't  the  sense  apparently  to  syndicate  his  stuff,  and  the 
go-getting  tactics  of  the  other,  who  was  frankly,  "all  things 
to  all  men." 

In  his  preface,  Mr.  Barton  explains  that  he  hadn't  been 
interested  in  St.  Paul  at  first,  but  was  induced  by  his  pub- 
lisher to  re-examine  the  scriptural  sources  and  thereby  con- 
verted to  writing  the  book.  Mr.  Fineman's  parting  jibe 
deserves  recording: 

"He  should  be  warned  however  against  the  wiles  of  pub- 
lishers, lest  one  of  them  induce  him  to  write  a  little  book 
about  Judas." 

The  implied  analogy  would  be  more  just  if,  in  Mr.  Barton, 
we  were  dealing  with  an  adult  and  fully  integrated  personality, 
but  obviously  this  is  not  the  case.  One  does  not  accuse  a  child 
of  betraying  anything  or  anybody.  And  Mr.  Barton  exhibits, 
more  clearly,  I  think,  than  any  other  contemporary  public 
figure,  the  characteristic  infantilism  of  the  American  busi- 
ness man. 

One  suspects,  however,  that  Mr.  Barton  has  grown  up 
sufficiently  to  regret  his  masterpiece;  indeed,  that  it  is  be- 
ginning to  haunt  him,  like  a  Frankenstein  monster.  The  fol- 
lowing episode,  which  I  have  slightly  disguised,  out  of  con- 
sideration for  the  organization  involved,  would  appear  to 
confirm  this  suspicion. 

I  was  once  visited  in  my  office  by  a  lady  who  represented 


a  committee,  organized  to  serve  a  worthy,  sensible,  and  ad- 
mirable philanthropic  cause.  The  committee  was  getting  out 
a  new  letterhead,  of  which  she  showed  me  a  first  proof.  She 
explained  that  she  wanted  a  pregnant  sentence  that  would 
express  the  high  aims  of  her  movement.  She  had  found  that 
sentence  in  The  Man  Nobody  Knows,  by  Bruce  Barton, 
author  and  Christian  advertising  man.  She  had  learned  that 
I  knew  Mr.  Barton.  She  knew  that  his  books  were  copy- 
righted, but?  Would  I  intercede  for  her  and  obtain  Mr.  Bar- 
ton's permission  to  use  as  the  motto  of  her  society  one  of  the 
most  felicitous  and  beautiful  sentences  she  had  ever  read? 

Gladly,  I  replied,  wondering  what  this  was  all  about.  But 
what  was  the  sentence? 

She  opened  the  Book.  She  pointed  to  the  underlined  sen- 
tence. It  read:  "Let  there  be  Light!" 

I  dictated  a  long  memorandum  urging  Mr.  Barton  to  grant 
her  request.  Mr.  Barton  was  not  amused. 





NO  DESCRIPTION  of  the  ad-man's  pseudoculture  can  be 
considered  complete  without  some  notation  of  the  curious 
atrophies,  distortions  and  perversions  of  mind  and  spirit  which 
the  ad-man  himself  suffers  as  a  consequence  of  his  profes- 
sional practice. 

I  have  heard  it  said  of  So-and-so  and  So-and-so  in  the  pro- 
fession: "They  are  born  advertising  men."  Obviously  this 
cannot  be  true.  Even  if  one  assumes  the  inheritance  of  ac- 
quired characteristics,  the  phenomenon  of  advertising  is  too 
recent  in  biological  time  to  have  brought  about  any  substan- 
tial modification  of  human  genes.  Moreover,  although  I  have 
known  many  perverse  and  diabolical  little  boys,  none  of  these 
creatures  was  sufficiently  monstrous  to  prompt  the  suspicion: 
"This  will  grow  up  and  be  an  advertising  man." 

No,  the  ad-man  is  born  not  of  woman,  but  of  the  society. 
He  is  the  subhuman  or  pseudohuman  product  of  an  inhuman 
culture.  His  insanities  are  not  congenital.  They  are  the  in- 
sanities of  a  society  which,  having  failed  to  embody  in  its 
growth  process  any  valid  economic,  ethical  or  moral  con- 
cepts, is  moronic  in  these  respects.  The  ad-man  seems  excep- 
tional and  terrifying  merely  because  his  whole  being  is  given 
over  to  the  expression  and  dissemination  of  this  moronism. 

The  ad-man  is  not  necessarily  an  intellectual  prostitute.  As 
already  pointed  out,  if  one  accepts  the  economic  and  social 
premises  of  American  capitalism,  the  ad-man  plays  a  logical 


and  necessary  role.  The  production  of  customers,  and  the 
control  of  factory  production  in  the  direction  of  profit-mo- 
tivated obsolescence — these  are  functions  in  a  profit  economy 
no  less  essential  than  the  production  of  coal  or  steel.  Most 
advertising  men  feel  this  very  strongly.  It  gives  them  confi- 
dence and  conviction,  so  that  they  are  the  more  easily  recon- 
ciled to  their  habitual  and  necessary  violation  of  the  prin- 
ciples of  truth,  beauty,  intelligence  and  ordinary  decency. 
They  are  profit-motivated  producers  of  customers,  and  they 
have  the  producer's  psychology.  It  is  right  and  beautiful  to 
make  a  customer  out  of  a  woman,  even  though  this  involves 
making  her  into  a  fool,  a  slave  and  a  greedy  neurotic.  It  is 
so  right  and  so  beautiful  that  the  ad-man  tends  to  make  the 
same  sort  of  thing  out  of  himself,  his  family  and  his  friends. 
I  have  had  many  friends  in  the  advertising  business  who  have 
been  solicitous  about  me,  because  of  my  unorthodox  views. 
At  various  times  I  have  been  put  to  some  embarrassment  to 
keep  them  from  trying,  for  the  good  of  my  soul,  to  make 
me  also  a  fool,  a  slave  and  a  greedy  neurotic.  Your  run  of  the 
mill  ad-man  has  no  inferiority  complex;  indeed  he  is  posi- 
tively messianic  about  his  profession — there  isn't  a  doubt  in 
a  carload  of  these  fellows. 

This  sounds  quite  mad,  but  it  is  also  quite  true.  The  in- 
ference, also  true,  is  that  the  society  is  mad;  the  ad-man  is 
exceptional  only  in  that  he  carries  more  than  his  share  of  the 
burden  of  this  madness. 

Hence  it  is  easy  to  absolve  the  ad-man  on  the  ground  that 
he  knows  not  what  he  does.  This,  I  think,  is  a  just  acquittal 
for  the  vast  majority  of  the  profession.  But  there  are,  of 
course,  many  exceptions.  There  are  many  men  and  women  in 
the  profession  who  have  explored  worlds  of  the  mind  and 
the  spirit  lying  beyond  this  Alice-in-Wonderland  world  of 
the  advertising  business.  They  are  perhaps  somewhat  to  be 
blamed,  especially  those  fallen  angels  who  use  their  excep- 
tional qualities  of  mind  and  imagination  actively  to  promote 


what  they  know  to  be  a  very  dirty  and  anti-social  traffic.  The 
distinction,  while  tenuous,  is,  I  think,  genuine.  It  is  between 
the  intellectually  sophisticated  ad-man  who  sells  a  part  of 
himself  to  make  a  living,  and  the  greedy  cynic,  often  with  a 
will-to-power  obsession,  who  sells  all  of  himself.  I  and  most 
of  my  friends  in  the  business  belonged  to  the  first  category, 
which  is  fairly  numerous.  The  will-to-power  cynic  is  quite 
exceptional,  and,  incidentally,  he  usually  goes  mad,  too;  he 
tends  to  believe  in  and  justify  this  acquired,  distorted  self; 
so  that  in  the  end  we  see  this  ex-literary  man  or  ex-artist  as 
a  Captain  of  Advertising,  frothing  at  the  mouth  at  advertis- 
ing conventions,  or  leading  his  hosts  of  devout,  iron-skulled 
ad-men  into  battle  for  God,  for  country  and  for  Wet  Smack 
chocolate  bars. 

In  the  portrait  studies  which  follow  I  have  tried  to  include 
proportionate  representation  of  all  three  basic  types.  While 
these  studies  are  based  on  the  writer's  observation  of  real 
people,  they  are  all  composite  portraits;  names,  places  and 
incidents  have  been  disguised.  The  writer  is  not  interested  in 
attacking  individuals;  rather  he  permits  himself  the  faint 
hope  that  some  very  likable  ad-men  who  may  read  this  book 
may  be  freed  from  the  coils  of  the  "systematized  illusions"  in 
which  they  have  become  entangled  along  with  their  victims. 
When,  as  now,  we  are  faced  with  the  necessity  of  building  a 
civilization  to  replace  the  self-destroying  barbarism  which 
has  hitherto  contented  us,  it  is  well  to  have  as  many  people 
as  possible  know  what  they  are  doing,  even  though  what  they 
are  doing  happens  to  be  a  mean  and  dirty  job.  Most  jobs  are 
like  that  in  our  society,  if  that  is  any  comfort. 


Pete  Sykes  is  the  American  University's  great  gift  to  ad- 


vertising,  and  perhaps  the  most  typical  advertising  man  I 

In  both  the  smaller  and  larger  American  colleges  and  uni- 
versities, during  the  period  just  before  the  war,  the  mind- 
set of  the  average  bright  young  man  was  determined  by  the 
time  he  became  a  sophomore.  Pete  was  above  the  average  as 
to  energy  and  charm,  but  in  all  other  respects  he  was  the 
perfect  stereotype  of  the  extraverted,  emulative,  career  man 
in  his  undergraduate  phase. 

He  had  some  literary  talent  and  made  the  staff  of  the  col- 
lege newspaper.  He  had  some  executive  ability  and  became 
assistant  manager  of  the  football  team.  He  was  personable, 
his  family  was  good  enough,  and  he  made  one  of  the  snootiest 
fraternities.  All  this  happened  during  his  first  two  years.  As 
to  his  studies:  in  a  moment  of  confidence  he  once  confessed 
to  me  that  he  could  make  nothing  of  Professor  Ely's  eco- 
nomics, although  he  had  studied  hard  in  that  course.  He  had 
determined  to  make  a  million  dollars  after  graduating,  and 
he  had  been  given  to  understand  that  economics  was  the 
science  of  making  a  million  dollars. 

When  Pete  made  this  confession  he  was  the  managing  head 
of  a  large  Middle  Western  agency.  Although  then  only  in  his 
early  forties  he  had  already  made  about  half  that  million 
dollars.  Without  benefit  of  Ely,  however.  I  tried  to  explain. 
I  cited  the  correspondence  of  a  radical  editor  with  an  engineer, 
exiled  in  Alaska,  whose  grown  sons  were  in  college  in  Seattle 
and  also  studying  Ely.  The  engineer  became  curious  and  read 
Ely  himself.  He  wrote:  "I  think  Professor  Ely  should  have 
married  Mary  Baker  Eddy,  for  they  are  manifestly  agreed  as 
to  the  non-existence  of  matter.  And  if  they  had  married,  I 
am  confident  that  their  child  would  have  been  a  bubble." 

Pete  laughed  and  asked  me  what  book  he  could  read  that 
did  make  sense.  I  suggested  Thorstein  Veblen's  Theory  of 
Business  Enterprise.  Fine!  After  lunch  he  stepped  into  a  book 
store  and  ordered  the  book;  also  a  new  detective  novel. 


I  wasn't  horsing  Pete.  He  was  and  is  a  good  fellow,  with 
enough  salt  in  his  nature  to  make  him  worth  taking  seriously, 
which  is  more  than  can  be  said  for  most  advertising  men. 
After  graduating  he  had  been  a  newspaper  reporter,  and  he 
understood  the  surfaces  of  American  life  very  well.  He  was 
tolerant,  too,  if  realistic.  A  year  later  he  fired  a  friend  of  mine 
on  the  ground  that  my  friend's  insistence  on  giving  no  more 
than  half  time  to  the  "business  nobody  knows"  implied  a  lack 
of  unmitigated  devotion  to  his  profession,  although  in  all 
other  respects  he  was  o.k.  My  friend  thought  his  point  well 
taken  and  departed  gracefully. 

Pete  had  to  fire  over  a  third  of  his  staff  as  the  depression 
deepened,  and  it  bothered  him.  The  civilization  had  put  him 
on  the  spot,  and  it  wasn't  fair,  because  he  was  still  only  a 
bright  sophomore.  His  ambition,  his  emulative  obligation  to 
himself,  to  his  parents,  to  his  classmates,  and  later  to  a  grow- 
ing family,  had  never  permitted  him  to  achieve  the  intellec- 
tual maturity  which  he  secretly  craved.  What  was  he  to  do 
with  these  stock-market-ruined  surplus  executives,  these 
debt-burdened  copy  writers — Smith's  wife  was  going  to  have 
a  baby,  Robinson  had  tuberculosis,  etc.,  etc.  Pete  stalled,  com- 
promised, whittled,  made  private  unadvertised  loans  out  of 
his  own  pocket,  and  in  the  end  had  to  fire  most  of  them  any- 

Pete  fought  hard.  To  hold  the  business.  To  get  new  busi- 
ness. But  he  was  on  the  spot  there,  too.  Pete  was  ethical,  a 
power  for  "truth  in  advertising,"  and  as  sincere  about  it  as 
practical  business  considerations  would  permit.  His  agency 
turned  out  quantities  of  bunk,  of  course.  But  respectable 
bunk.  No  bought-and-paid-for  testimonials.  None  of  the 
gaudier  and  dirtier  patent  medicine  accounts.  His  fastidious- 
ness cost  him  money  and  work.  He  had  to  prove  that  it  was 
possible  to  match  the  achievements  of  the  testimonial  adver- 
tisers by  using  other,  more  ethical  advertising  methods.  It 
wasn't  easy,  and  sometimes  the  ethical  distinction  between 


Pete's  methods  and  those  of  the  testimonial  racketeers  seemed 
a  bit  tenuous.  Particularly  now  that  the  depression  had  forced 
advertisers  to  become  increasingly  hard-boiled. 

So  Pete  wasn't  happy.  He  had  worked  terribly  hard  all  his 
life.  He  was  moral.  He  had  even  cut  out  liquor  so  that  he 
could  work  harder.  After  failing  and  succeeding,  failing  and 
succeeding,  half  a  dozen  times,  that  million  dollars  which  he 
desired  with  such  nai've  emotional  abandon  was,  in  1929, 
almost  within  his  grasp.  But  the  stock  market  crash  had 
postponed  the  realization  of  that  ambition  indefinitely.  And 
now  the  iron  collar  of  economics — Ely's,  Veblen's,  some- 
body's economics — was  not  only  choking  him,  driving  down 
his  standard  of  living,  brushing  aside  his  pecuniary  ambitions, 
but  forcing  him  to  be  an  advertising  faker,  a  slave  driver,  a 
hard-boiled  executant  of  decisions  written  in  red  ink  and 
passed  by  vote  of  his  board  of  directors. 

It  wasn't  fair  and  Pete  suffered.  There  he  was,  grimacing 
like  the  gargoyle  outside  his  skyscraper  office,  chilled  by  the 
winds  of  panic  that  swept  the  country,  watching  the  waters 
of  prosperity  recede,  taking  with  them  first  his  profits,  and 
now  threatening  the  very  continuance  of  his  profession.  A 
tough  spot.  Out  on  the  end  of  a  limb.  The  buzz  of  the  Brain 
Trust  in  Washington  worried  him.  Would  they  saw  off  the 
limb  on  which  he  was  sitting?  But  that  would  be  outrageous! 
He  was  a  hard,  competent  worker.  And  a  good  fellow.  He 
had  fought  like  hell  in  behalf  of  his  employees.  He  had  re- 
sisted the  onslaughts  of  the  advertising  vandals  who  were 
destroying  reader-confidence.  Economics?  Damn  economics! 
Where  did  he  get  off  in  this  beautiful  American  economic 
scheme  of  things?  And  when  would  he  get  a  little  sleep? 

You  can  see  how  hard  it  is  to  find  effigies  to  burn,  bad  men 
to  drive  out  of  office.  I  don't  blame  Pete.  I  blame  the  Ameri- 
can university  for  spawning  so  many  sophomores,  telling 
them  that  advertising  was  a  respectable  career  for  an  honest, 
intelligent  person,  and  then  walking  out  on  them  as  soon  as 


the  depression  proved  that  the  reverend  professors  of  "eco- 
nomics" were  just  as  imbecile  as  any  village  socialist  had  al- 
ways said  they  were.  .  .  .  No,  it's  no  use  blaming  the  uni- 
versity either.  Let's  blame  Alexander  Hamilton  a  good  deal 
and  Thomas  Jefferson,  too.  And  John  Calvin.  And  Daniel 
Shays  for  not  being  as  good  a  revolutionary  engineer  as 
Lenin.  .  .  . 

I  guess  that  let's  Pete  out.  If  I  were  Commissar  in  a  Soviet 
America — and  I  can  think  of  few  people  less  competent  for 
the  job — I  should  want  Pete  at  a  desk  around  the  corner. 
I'd  have  to  watch  him  for  a  while  because  he  has  a  consider- 
able will-to-power.  But  he's  a  good  fellow,  and,  given  some- 
thing serious  to  do,  a  good  workman.  The  depression  has 
matured  him.  He  isn't  a  sophomore  any  more.  But  there  he 
is,  holding  the  bag  for  a  staff  of  two  hundred  people,  under- 
paying them  and  overworking  them  because  he  has  to,  and 
occasionally  obliged,  for  business  reasons,  to  strike  those 
^ophomoric  attitudes  he  no  longer  believes  in.  Pete  is  still 
one  of  the  Kings  of  Bedlam.  I  think  some  nights  he  prays 
for  a  revolution. 


A  few  years  ago  there  came  into  an  agency  where  I  was 
working  a  tall  Westerner  who  had  got  himself  a  job  in  the 
publicity  department.  (Yes,  advertising  agencies  have  pub- 
licity departments.  They  are  quite  legitimate,  although  the 
newspapers  don't  like  them  much.) 

His  name  was — call  him  Buck  McMaster.  He  looked  like  a 
cowboy  and  had  been  one  in  his  youth  in  Oklahoma.  He  was 
a  competent,  facile  newspaperman  and  likable.  The  job  paid 
more  than  most  newspaper  jobs  and  it  was  easy.  The  smaller 
newspapers  had  to  like  the  stuff  and  even  the  desk  men  on 
the  big  ones  were  trained  to  say  maybe,  without  meaning 
maybe.  The  stuff  had  to  tie  up  with  the  news,  of  course,  and 


it  had  to  be  competently  written.  But  Big  Business  is  news, 
and  that  agency  was  doing  jobs  for  Big  Business.  It  was  pap  for 
Buck,  even  though  they  loaded  his  desk  with  plenty  of  as- 

He  was  happy  as  a  lark  at  first.  But  within  a  couple  of 
weeks  that  cowboy  was  riding  high  and  grabbing  for  the 
carriage  of  his  typewriter.  Looking  through  the  glass  of  my 
cubicle  I  could  see  him,  scowling.  And  from  time  to  time 
I  would  hear  him  rip  spoiled  drafts  out  of  his  machine  and 
crunch  them  into  the  waste  basket. 

"Jesus  Christ,"  he  would  bleat.  "Holy  Mother,  what  next?" 

At  that  time  some  of  my  signed  writings  were  appearing 
in  radical  magazines.  He  must  have  read  something  of  mine 
and  decided  I  was  safe. 

Late  one  afternoon  he  came  into  my  cubicle  and  sat  down. 

"I'm  going  gaga,"  he  said.  "This  stuff  is  terrible.  Do  you 
mind  telling  me — "  he  leaned  forward  and  whispered — "is 
this  a  racket,  too?" 

I  was  startled.  Newspapermen  are  supposed  to  be  hard- 
boiled.  And  this  one  was  an  ex-cowboy  to  boot,  who  looked 
tough  enough  for  anything. 

"Do  you  mind  telling  me,"  I  asked,  "What  was  your  last 

"Sure,"  he  said.  "I  was  publicity  man  for ."  He  named 

one  of  the  most  salacious  of  the  Broadway  producers.  "It 
was  a  lousy  job — you  know,  cheap  and  nasty.  I'd  heard  about 
the  advertising  business  and  decided  to  get  into  something 

He  seemed  hurt  when  I  laughed. 

"Well,"  he  said  morosely.  "Then  I  guess  it's  back  to  the 
bright  lights  for  me.  I  suppose  you  don't  happen  to  know  of 
anything  in  this  town  a  man  can  do  and  keep  his  self-respect?" 

Buck  got  out  finally  by  writing  cheap  fiction  for  the  pulps. 
He  was  and  is  a  lot  better  than  that.  He  has  written  honest, 
sensitive  fiction  stories  which  he  hasn't  been  able  to  sell.  So 


he  writes  more  pulp  fiction  and  is  forever  spoiling  his  busi- 
ness by  writing  it  too  well.  He  lives  in  the  country  now, 
and  has  got  himself  elected  justice  of  the  peace  in  his  town- 
ship. He's  an  honest  judge,  although  he  tells  me  the  local 
political  pressures  are  considerable.  He  has  a  considerable 
local  reputation  among  the  young  people.  When  a  couple 
arrives  at  his  house,  wanting  to  get  married,  he  first  strives 
earnestly  to  dissuade  them.  If  he  is  over-ruled,  he  then  leads 
them  to  an  idyllic  spot  beside  a  brook  and  reads  them  the 
Song  of  Solomon.  Finally,  he  refuses  to  accept  a  fee. 


There  is  a  very  scared  man  huddled  back  of  his  desk  in  a 
big  Western  agency.  He  is  one  of  the  most  gifted  literary 
craftsmen  I  know.  He  is  something  of  a  sophisticate,  and  I 
am  confident  has  never  believed  a  word  of  the  millions  of 
words  of  advertising  copy  he  must  have  written.  But  he 
rarely  says  anything  like  that,  even  when  drunk. 

He  is  very  scared.  He  is  in  his  late  fifties  now,  and  has  six 
children.  He  is  very  eminent  and  successful,  but  he  is  scared 
just  the  same.  As  the  depression  deepened,  he  saw  to  it  that 
the  people  in  his  department  who  stayed  could  be  counted 
upon  to  protect  his  job.  Just  before  the  bank  holiday  he  put 
ten  thousand  dollars  in  gold  coins  in  his  safe  deposit  box. 
Every  now  and  then  he  would  go  in  and  make  sure  that  the 
gold  was  still  there. 

Mr.  Gentroy.  The  brilliant  Gentroy.  Once  he  had  literary 
ambitions.  But  he  was  scared.  And  he  is  old  now.  A  little  of 
his  light  red  hair  is  still  left.  His  face  is  red,  too.  When  you 
ask  him  something  he  never  commits  himself.  And  when  you 
listen  to  him,  you  wonder  who  or  what  is  speaking. 

There  was  something  there  once.  A  person.  Possibly  an 
artist.  It  is  gone  now.  For  years  he  has  been  .following  Mr. 
Goode's  prescription:  he  has  been  turning  people  into  gold. 


Now  he  is  gold  himself.  Pure  gold.  Only  occasionally,  when 
he  is  drunk,  does  a  small  bubble  of  laughter  or  anger  rise  to 
the  surface.  The  refining  process  is  never  quite  complete. 
But  Gentroy,  because  he  was  so  scared,  has  carried  it  farther 
than  most.  Gold.  Pure  gold. 


Bodfish  had  asked  the  doctor  about  liquor,  and  the  doctor 
had  shrugged.  Bodfish  had  a  leaky  heart — the  diagnosis  was 
positive  on  that  point.  Yet  when  Bodfish  had  asked  him 
about  liquor,  the  very  Jewish,  very  eminent  and  very  expen- 
sive diagnostician  had  looked  out  of  the  window,  lowered 
his  Oriental  eyelids,  and  shrugged. 

So  Bodfish  had  gone  directly  from  the  doctor's  office  to  the 
speakeasy.  In  half  an  hour  he  was  jolly.  An  hour  later  the 
Good  Kid  came  in  and  told  him  cheerfully  that  he  was  tight. 
He  hadn't  felt  tight.  On  the  contrary,  he  felt  himself  to  be 
the  center  of  an  immense,  serene  and  sober  clarity.  The  ex- 
perience was  not  unknown  to  him.  The  creative  moment.  It 
was  his  ability  to  experience  such  moments  that  made  him  a 
great  advertising  man.  He  had  felt  this  way  the  night  he  had 
thought  of  the  Blisterine  idea,  which  had  revolutionized  the 
advertising  of  proprietary  medicines.  A  sense  of  power,  of 
marching  analysis,  of  kaleidoscopic  syllogisms  resolving  into 
simple,  original  and  utterly  right  conclusions. 

The  sensation  was  similar,  but  this  time  his  relaxed,  ath- 
letic mind  was  exploring  strange  territory.  Himself.  His  life. 
The  curious,  strained,  phantasmagoric  pattern  of  his  days. 

There  was  something  he  had  wanted  to  tell  the  Good  Kid, 
but  she  wouldn't  listen.  He  had^  felt  a  beautiful,  paternal 
pity  for  the  Good  Kid.  It  wasn't  her  fault,  he  had  tried  to 
tell  her.  It  wasn't  his  fault,  either.  They  were  both  victims. 
As  he  said  it,  he  had  put  forth  a  hand,  the  wrist  hairy,  the 
flesh  around  the  knuckles  showing  the  first  withering  of  age, 

and  attempted  to  lay  it  upon  her  brow  in  a  gesture  of  chaste 

The  Good  Kid  had  laughed  at  him.  "You're  drunk,  B.  J." 
she  had  assured  him  briskly.  And  a  little  later  she  had  gone 
off  with  the  art  director,  leaving  him  alone  in  the  speakeasy 
in  a  corner  facing  the  mirror. 

The  lamps  of  the  speakeasy  were  heavily  shaded.  But  there 
was  light — the  mood  of  revelation  persisted.  It  was  as  if  his 
flashing  mind  played  against  the  mirror,  and  in  that  clear 
illumination  the  face  of  Bodfish  stared  out  at  him  in  sharp 
relief.  There  were  two  Bodfishes  now.  There  was  Bodfish,  the 
ad-man,  posing,  gesticulating  in  the  mirror.  And  there  was  a 
new,  masterful,  illuminated  Bodfish  who  smiled  sardonically, 
fingered  his  cigar,  and  continued  the  inquisition  of  that 
Mephistophelian  physician. 

"Do  you  want  the  truth?"  the  physician  had  asked,  and 
Bodfish  had  said  he  did. 

Now,  with  the  patient  caught  in  the  relentless  reflection  of 
the  mirror,  Bodfish  repeated  the  question. 

"Do  you  want  the  truth?" 

The  lips  in  the  mirror  smiled.  The  head  nodded.  Yes,  it 
was  to  be  the  truth. 

"Your  posture  is  bad,  Bodfish.  Stand  up!" 

Bodfish  stood  up. 

"Your  nose  is  six  inches  ahead  of  your  body.  You're  ahead 
of  yourself." 

The  face  in  the  mirror  smiled  deprecatingly.  Bodfish's  as- 
sociates had  frequently  made  that  flattering  complaint.  Bod- 
fish was  too  bright.  He  thought  too  fast.  His  mind  was  so 
active  that 

"Nonsense,  Bodfish.  I  doubt  very  much  that  you  have 
ever  in  your  life  experienced  the  discipline  of  honest  thought. 
That  head  and  shoulder  posture — what  does  it  remind  you 

The  face  in  the  mirror  smirked. 


"A  hawk?  Really,  if  I  am  to  do  anything  for  you,  well 
have  to  dispense  with  a  few  of  these  bizarre  illusions.  There 
are  hawks  in  your  business,  but  not  many  of  them.  As  it 
happens  a  number  of  my  patients  are  advertising  men.  Most 
of  them  are  like  yourself.  Have  you  ever  watched  a  mechan- 
ical rabbit  run  around  a  race  track  pursued  by  whippets?" 

The  doctor  hadn't  said  that — not  quite.  But  being  some- 
thing of  a  histrion,  as  well  as  a  good  deal  of  a  masochist,  Bod- 
fish  enjoyed  exaggerating  and  refining  the  cruelties  of  the 

"Posture,  Bodfish,  is  not  merely  a  physical  thing.  Yours  is 
a  moral,  a  spiritual  disequilibrium.  Moreover,  you  embody, 
in  your  own  psychic  and  physiological  predicament,  the 
dilemma  of  the  civilization.  Its  acquisitive  nose  is  ahead  of 
its  economic  body.  It  is  wobbling,  stumbling,  about  to  fall 
on  its  face.  Throw  your  chin  in,  Bodfish.  Think!  Do  you 
remember  when  you  first  got  into  the  advertising  business?" 

Bodfish  remembered. 

"You  were  an  average  youth,  Bodfish;  perhaps  a  little  more 
sensitive  than  the  average,  and  with  a  frail  talent  for  writ- 
ing— not  much,  but  a  little.  You  had  an  idea  of  yourself.  It 
was  that  idea  that  held  you  together — that  kept  your  shoul- 
ders back  and  your  chin  in.  Posture,  Bodfish,  is  largely  a  mat- 
ter of  taking  thought.  You  thought  a  good  deal  of  yourself 
in  those  days.  Everything  that  happened  to  you  mattered.  It 
mattered  to  the  degree  that  it  affected,  favorably  or  unfavor- 
ably, your  idea  of  yourself.  Tell  me,  Bodfish,  in  those  days 
did  you  think  of  yourself  as  a  charlatan,  a  cheat  and  a  liar? 
Did  you  think  of  yourself  as  a  commissioned  maker  and 
wholesaler  of  half-truths  of  outright  deceptions;  a  degraded 
clown  costumed  in  the  burlesque  tatters  of  fake  science,  fake 
art,  and  fake  education,  leering,  cozening,  bullying  the  crowd 
into  an  obscene  tent  show  that  you  don't  even  own  yourself — 
that  by  this  time  nobody  owns?" 


The  reflected  face  became  distorted  as  Bodfish  advanced 
upon  the  mirror. 

"Answer  me,  Bodfish!  You  wanted  me  to  explain  to  you 
why  you've  got  a  leaky  heart,  why  your  back  hurts  so  you 
can't  sleep,  why  none  of  your  office  wives  takes  you  seriously 
— not  after  the  first  week  anyway.  The  answer  is  that  you've 
not  only  lost  the  idea  of  a  society — you've  lost  the  idea  of 
yourself.  It's  silly  to  speak  to  you  as  a  sick  person.  As  a  per- 
son you've  practically  ceased  to  exist.  Long  ago  you  stuffed 
yourself  into  the  waste  paper  basket  along  with  all  the  other 
refuse  of  your  dismal  trade.  You  went  down  the  freight 
elevator  in  a  big  bale,  back  to  the  pulp  mill.  What's  left  is 
make-believe.  Why,  you  need  three  gin  fizzes  before  you  can 
even  take  yourself  seriously.  You  flap  and  rattle  like  a  pre- 
war tin  lizzie.  And  you  come  to  me  for  repairs!  Tell  me, 
Bodfish,  why  should  any  intelligent  man  waste  his  time  re- 
habilitating you?  Why,  you're  as  obsolete  as  a  Silurian  liz- 
ard! ...  Be  sensible,  Bodfish,  have  a  drink." 

Bodfish  had  a  drink. 

"To  your  great  profession,  Bodfish!  To  your  billion  dollar 
essential  industry!  Fill  up,  Bodfish!" 

Bodfish  filled  his  glass. 

"To  your  historic  mission,  Bodfish,  the  rednctio  ad  ab- 
surdum  of  a  whole  era.  Drink,  Bodfish!" 

Bodfish  drank. 

"To  the  40,000  ewe  lambs  of  American  advertising,  who, 
as  the  crisis  deepened,  poured  out  their  last  full  measure  of 
devotion  on  the  altar  of  business  as  usual.  To  the  vicarious 
sacrifice  which  history  exacts  of  the  knave,  the  weakling,  and 
the  fantast.  Drink,  Bodfish!" 

At  three  o'clock  in  the  morning  the  push-broom  of  the 
negro  roustabout  encountered  an  obstruction  under  the  table 
next  the  mirror. 

"Mistah  Tony!" 


The  proprietor  wiped  the  last  glass,  placed  it  carefully  on 
the  shelf,  and  leisurely  emerged  from  behind  the  bar. 

"Get  Joe  and  put  him  in  the  back  room,"  instructed  the 
proprietor  briefly. 

His  partner,  the  ex-chorus  girl,  returned  from  padlocking 
the  front  door. 

"They  tell  me  he's  lost  the  Universal  Founders  account." 

"Yes.  His  gal  friend's  quitting — told  me  so  this  evening." 

The  proprietor  frowned,  opened  the  cash  drawer  and  ex- 
amined a  check. 

"Better  take  him  off  the  list,  Clara." 

It  was  late  afternoon  of  the  next  day  before  Bodfish  awoke. 

He  lay  quietly  staring  at  the  painting  of  Lake  Como  on  the 
opposite  wall.  Then  he  closed  his  eyes.  There  was  something 
he  wanted  to  remember — something  that  had  happened  in 
the  night.  What  was  it?  Oh,  yes,  posture!  That  was  the  word, 
posture.  Marvellous.  A  big  idea.  Never  been  used  in  advertis- 
ing before.  Nine  out  of  ten  have  posture  defects. 

Sitting  up  in  bed  he  extracted  pencil  and  an  envelope  and 
made  hasty  notes.  That  was  it.  A  cinch.  That  Universal 
Founders'  account  wasn't  lost.  Not  by  a  damn  sight. 

He  rose,  scrubbed  briefly  at  the  dirty  sink,  and  inspected 
himself  in  the  mirror.  Eyes  clear.  Face  rested.  Cured! 

Great  thing,  posture.  What  the  doctor  ordered. 

Bodfish  straightened  himself.  That's  it.  Head  up.  Chin  in. 




Advertising  and  the  Depression 

THE  evolution  of  the  American  salesman  hero,  climaxed  by 
Mr.  Barton's  deification  of  the  salesman-advertising  man  in 
The  Man  Nobody  Knows  was  rudely  interrupted  by  the  stock 
market  crash  in  1929.  During  the  depression  years  Mr.  Bar- 
ton's syndicated  sermonettes  struck  more  and  more  frequently 
the  note  of  Christian  humility.  It  was  an  appropriate  atti- 
tude. For  as  the  depression  deepened  it  became  apparent  that 
the  ad-man  could  not  carry  the  burden  of  his  own  inflated 
apparatus,  let  alone  break  down  the  sales-resistance  of  the 
breadlines  and  sell  us  all  back  to  prosperity. 

The  ad-man  tried.  It  is  pitiful  to  recall  those  recurrent 
mobilizations  of  the  forces  of  advertising,  designed  to  exor- 
cize the  specter  of  a  "psychological  depression":  the  infantile 
slogans,  "Forward  America!"  "Don't  Sell  America  Short!"; 
finally,  the  campaign  of  President  Hoover's  Organization  on 
Unemployment  Relief,  to  which  the  publications  contributed 
free  space  and  the  advertising  agencies  free  copy. 

One  of  these  advertisements,  which  appeared  in  the  Sat- 
urday Evening  Post  issue  of  Oct.  24,  1931,  is  headed  "I'll  see 
it  through  if  you  will."  It  is  signed  in  type  "Unemployed, 
1931,"  and  the  presumptive  speaker  is  shown  in  the  illustra- 
tion: a  healthy,  well-fed  workman,  smiling  and— tightening 
his  belt.  The  staggering  effrontery  of  these  frightened  ad-men 
in  presuming  to  speak  for  the  unemployed  workers  of  America 
can  scarcely  be  characterized  in  temperate  language.  This 

campaign  signed  by  Walter  S.  Gifford,  president  of  the 
American  Telephone  and  Telegraph  Company,  which  was  at 
the  same  time  paying  dividends  at  the  expense  of  the  thou- 
sands of  workers  which  it  had  discharged  and  continued  to 
discharge,  and  by  Owen  D.  Young,  chairman  of  the  Com- 
mittee on  Organization  of  Relief  Resources,  was  designed  to 
kill  two  birds  with  one  stone:  first,  to  wheedle  money  out  of 
the  middle  classes,  and  second,  to  persuade  the  unemployed 
to  suffer  stoically  and  not  question  the  economic,  social  and 
ethical  assumptions  on  which  our  acquisitive  society  is  based 
and  out  of  which  the  eminent  gentlemen  who  sponsored 
the  campaign  were  making  money.  The  particular  adver- 
tisement already  referred  to  understated  the  volume  of  un- 
employment about  a  third,  and  then  the  ineffable  ad-man, 
speaking  through  the  masque  of  the  tailor's  dummy  work- 
man said,  "I  know  that's  not  your  fault,  any  more  than  it  is 

It  didn't  work.  The  rich  gave  absurdly  little.  And  the  sales 
of  advertised  products  continued  to  drop  despite  the  pleading, 
bullying,  snarling  editorials  printed  by  the  women's  maga- 
zines at  the  urgency  of  the  business  offices  which  saw  their 
advertising  income  dropping  and  their  "books"  becoming 
every  week  and  every  month  more  svelte  and  undernourished. 

Nothing  worked,  and  pretty  soon  the  ad-men  had  so  much 
to  do,  what  with  the  necessary  firing  and  retrenchment  that 
went  on  in  the  agencies  and  publications,  that  they  no  longer 
even  pretended  that  they  could  make  America  safe  for 
Hoover  by  advertising  us  out  of  the  depression.  The  worst  of 
it  was  that  the  general  public,  and  even  the  advertisers  quite 
evidently  didn't  give  a  whoop  about  the  advertising  business 
— that  is  to  say,  the  publisher-broadcaster-agency  structure. 
Thousands  of  ad-men  were  out  of  work — and  the  heartless 
vaudevillians  of  Broadway  sat  up  nights  thinking  up  cracks 
about  this  unregretted  circumstance. 

The  doctors,  the  architects,  the  engineers,  even  the  lawyers 


were  able  to  command  some  public  sympathy.  But  although 
from  1929  on  the  consumer  got  less  and  less  advertising 
guidance,  stimulus  and  education,  it  was  apparent  that  any- 
body who  had  the  money  had  no  difficulty  in  buying  what- 
ever he  wanted  to  buy.  So  that  when  apprised  of  the  sad 
plight  of  the  ad-men,  the  unsympathetic  layman  was  likely 
to  couple  them  with  the  bankers  and  remark  in  Broadway 
parlance,  "And  so  what?" 

And  so  the  evil  days  came,  and  the  profession  had  no  pleas- 
ure in  them.  And  the  priests  of  the  temple  of  advertising  went 
about  the  streets  in  snappy  suits  and  tattered  underwear.  And 
when  they  read  their  Printers'  Ink  in  the  public  library  they 
encountered  some  very  saddening  statistical  trends. 

The  Advertising  Record  Company  uses  a  check  list  of  89 
magazines  and  gives  dollar  values,  which  increased  from 
$190,817,540  in  1927  to  $203,776,077  in  1929.  By  1932  the 
magazine  lineage  had  dropped  to  $16,239,587  and  the  dollar 
value  to  $115,342,606.  Partial  figures  for  1933  are  provided 
by  Advertising  and  Selling.  They  show  magazine  lineage  to 
be  about  29  per  cent  under  the  1932  figures  for  the  first  six 
months  of  1933.  In  July  the  descending  curve  began  to 
flatten,  so  that,  what  with  beer  and  the  NRA  the  September 
lineage  is  only  minus  5.88  per  cent  as  against  September, 
1932 — incidentally  a  reversal  of  the  usual  seasonal  trend. 

The  curve  of  national  advertising  in  newspapers  behaves 
similarly.  Starting  with  a  dollar  value  of  $220,000,000  in 
1925,  it  reaches  a  1929  peak  of  $260,000,000.  Then  it  drops 
to  $230,000,000  in  1930,  $205,000,000  in  1931,  and  $160,- 
000,000  in  1932.  The  drop  continued  in  the  early  months 
of  1933,  but  the  recovery  came  sooner  and  has  gone  higher; 
August  newspaper  advertising  was  23.65  per  cent  above  the 
same  month  of  the  preceding  year. 

As  might  be  expected,  agriculture  is  the  sore  spot  of  the 
advertising  economy  as  it  is  of  the  economy  in  general.  The 
Advertising  Record  Company's  figures  show  a  slightly  earlier 


incidence  of  distress  in  this  quarter.  National  advertising  in 
national  farm  publications  faltered  from  $11,092,342  in  1929 
to  $10,327,956  in  1930,  dropped  suddenly  to  $7,775,415  in 

1931,  and  slumped  hopelessly  in  1932  to  $4,921,514. 
Radio  advertising  is  unique  in  that  it  shows  a  continuous 

upward  trend  during  the  depression  years  up  to  1933.  The 
combined  figures  of  the  two  major  chain  systems,  National 
and  Columbia,  show  an  increase  of  broadcasting  expenditures 
by  national  advertisers  from  $18,729,571  in  1929  to  $39,- 
106,776  in  1932.  But  by  April  of  this  year  radio  advertising 
was  42.71  per  cent  under  the  total  for  the  same  month  of 

1932.  A  reversal  of  this  trend  is  indicated  by  the  August 
total  which  is  off  only  16.53  per  cent  as  against  August,  1932. 
In  spite  of  their  increased  income  during  the  depression,  how- 
ever, the  Wonder  Boys  of  radio  have  managed  somehow  to 
stay  in  the  red — NBC,  for  example,  has  yet  to  pay  a  dividend 
to  its  common  stockholders. 

So  much  for  the  statistical  records  of  the  advertising  in- 
dustry. The  summary  is  incomplete  since  it  does  not  include 
the  trade  press,  car-cards,  outdoor  advertising  and  direct  ad- 
vertising. The  trends,  however,  have  been  similar. 

The  human  records  during  these  years  of  the  locust  have 
been  even  more  depressing.  Certainly,  the  Golden  Bowl  of 
advertising  is  not  broken.  But  it  has  been  badly  cracked,  and 
through  that  crack  has  leaked  at  least  half  of  the  1929  per- 
sonnel of  the  profession  and,  probably,  a  bit  more  than  half 
of  the  profession's  1929  income.  This  is  merely  a  rough  esti- 
mate, since  no  reliable  figures  are  available.  The  writer  is  in- 
debted to  a  leading  employment  agency  in  the  field  for  the 
estimates  here  given.  They  are  based  on  considerable  evi- 
dence plus  the  best  judgment  of  an  informed  observer. 

Advertising  salaries  were,  of  course,  preposterously  inflated 
during  the  late  New  Era.  A  good  run  of  the  mill  copy  writer 
got  $150  a  week,  whereas  a  newspaper  reporter  of  equal 
competence  would  be  lucky  to  get  $50  a  week.  Practically 


any  competent  artist  could  choose  between  starving  to  death 
painting  good  pictures  and  making  from  $10,000  to  $50,000 
a  year  painting  portraits  of  branded  spinach,  pineapple, 
cheese,  etc.,  so  realistic  that  the  publications  in  which  they 
were  reproduced  had  to  be  kept  on  ice  in  order  to  arrest  the 
normal  processes  of  nature.  (The  writer  admits  that  the 
artists  were  not  solely  to  blame  for  this  interesting  phenom- 
enom. ) 

The  push-button  boys,  the  high-power  advertising  execu- 
tives, the  star  agency  business  getters  and  publication  space 
salesmen — all  these  were  similarly  inflated  as  to  salaries,  and 
as  to  their  conviction  of  their  own  importance.  Executive 
salaries  of  $25,000  and  $30,000  were  common  in  1929,  and 
there  were  even  a  few  $50,000  a  year  men,  not  counting  the 
agency  owners.  Research  directors  and  merchandizing  ex- 
perts had  also  begun  to  come  in  on  the  big  money.  In  some 
of  the  larger  agencies,  an  owlish,  ex-academic  or  pseudo- 
academic  type  was  in  great  demand  as  a  front  for  the  more 
important  clients.  These  queer  birds  got  from  $12,000  to 
$40,000  a  year.  They  specialized  in  the  higher  realms  of  the 
advertising  make-believe,  being  as  statistical,  psychological, 
economico-psychological,  statistical-sociological  as  Polonius 
himself.  Since  there  was  indeed  something  rotten  in  Den- 
mark, and  advertising  was  distinctly  a  part  of  that  something, 
they,  too,  were  pierced  by  the  sword  of  the  depression  and 
fell  squealing  behind  the  arras. 

Eheu!  Those  were  the  happy  days!  Where  are  they  now, 
those  Pushers  of  the  Purple  Pen,  those  pent-housed  and 
limousined  "artists,"  those  academic  prime  ministers  in  their 
modern  dress  of  double-breasted  serge,  those  industrial  stylists 
and  package  designers,  those  stern,  efficient,  young-old,  but- 
ton-pushing High  Priests  of  the  Gospel  of  Advertising? 

A  few,  who  didn't  get  caught  in  the  stock  market,  are 
sitting  and  drinking  in  Majorca,  waiting  for  the  waters  to 
subside  and  the  peak  of  the  advertising  Ararat  to  reappear. 


Some  are  doing  subsistence  farming  in  Vermont  and  else- 
where, with  perhaps  a  hot  dog  stand  as  a  side  line. 

Some  of  them  are  on  the  receiving  end  of  the  formula  of 
salesmen-exploitation  which  many  companies  have  adopted 
as  a  means  of  conquering  the  rigors  of  the  depression.  You 
use  your  own  car  and  your  own  gas  trying  to  sell  a  new 
gadget  in  a  territory  infested  by  other  salesmen  for  the  same 
gadget.  In  two  months  you  have  sold  two  gadgets  and  your 
commissions  amount  to  $58.75.  Your  business  expense  for  the 
same  period  amounts  to  $79.85.  That  proves  you're  a  poor 

Some  of  the  savants  are  back  in  the  fresh-water  colleges 
teaching  the  same  old  stuff  about  scientific  merchandizing  to 
the  Young  Idea,  from  whom  they  carefully  conceal  what's 
happened,  assuming  that  they  know  what's  happened,  which 
is  doubtful. 

A  former  copy  writer  of  my  acquaintance  became  busi- 
ness manager  of  a  radical  monthly,  on  a  theoretical  salary. 
Another  has  gone  to  California,  where  Life  is  Better,  and  the 
climate  more  suitable  for  practicing  his  former  craft  of  com- 
mercial fiction.  He  wasn't  fired,  by  the  way.  It  was  merely 
that  he  found  he  had  no  aptitude  for  the  brass-knuckled 
rough  and  tumble  of  current  advertising  practice. 

One  hears  that  some  of  the  unemployed  poets  in  advertis- 
ing are  writing  poetry  and  that  some  of  the  unemployed 
novelists  in  advertising  are  writing  novels.  Perhaps  that  is  one 
explanation  for  the  increased  tonnage  of  manuscripts  by 
which  editors,  publishers  and  literary  agents  have  been  in- 

For  the  so-called  "creative"  workers  in  advertising,  the 
adjustment  has  perhaps  been  a  little  easier  than  for  the 
executives,  "contact  men,"  space  salesmen,  etc.  A  relief  ad- 
ministrator told  the  writer  about  an  advertising  man  who 
had  presented  a  difficult  problem  to  her  organization.  He 
needed  money  to  feed  his  family,  but  he  wouldn't  surrender 


his  respectable  address  just  off  Park  Avenue.  He  still  hoped 
to  get  back  into  the  running,  had  a  hundred  "leads"  and 
schemes.  Meanwhile,  he  must  look  prosperous,  since  an  in- 
digent, unsuccessful  advertising  man  is  a  contradiction  in 

Many  of  the  agencies  started  firing  and  cutting  right  after 
the  stock  market  crash.  By  the  fall  of  1930  wholesale  dis- 
charges were  frequent.  During  the  past  year  the  havoc  has 
been  appalling.  Agencies  that  formerly  employed  six  hundred 
people  are  operating  with  about  half  that  number.  In  the 
smaller  agencies  the  staffs  have  been  reduced  from  150  to  30, 
from  30  to  8,  from  16  to  4.  Salaries  have  been  cut  again  and 
again.  In  some  agencies  there  have  been  as  many  as  four  suc- 
cessive cuts.  They  have  hit  the  higher  and  middle  brackets 
hardest — particularly  the  "creative'*  staffs.  The  employment 
agent  already  referred  to  has  recently  placed  copy  writers  at 
$50  and  $70  a  week  who  in  1929  were  getting  $10,000  and 
$14,000  a  year.  Secretaries  and  stenographers  have  dropped 
from  $40  and  $303  week  to  $18  and  $15.  In  the  entire  agency 
field  there  are  perhaps  a  handful  that  have  refrained  from 
cutting  salaries  or  have  restored  cuts  when  business  improved 
for  that  particular  agency. 

Mergers  have  been  numerous  during  the  depression.  The 
earlier  trend  toward  concentration  of  the  business  in  the 
hands  of  a  comparatively  few  large  agencies  has  been  ac- 
celerated. In  the  process  many  well-known  names  have  dis- 
appeared from  the  agency  roster. 

As  to  the  effect  of  the  weeding-out  process  on  the  quality 
of  the  residual  agency  staffs,  it  may  be  said  that  a  percentage 
of  sheer  incompetents  has  been  dropped;  that  a  percentage  of 
incompetents  has  been  retained  because  through  social  or 
financial  connections  they  controlled  the  placing  of  valuable 
business;  that  in  general,  the  trend  has  been  toward  a  more 
rigorous  "industrialization"  of  the  business,  with  a  lower  aver- 
age wage  scale,  and  a  progressive  narrowing  of  responsibility. 


The  residual  ad-men  tend  to  be  or  at  least  to  act  hard-boiled. 
They  do  what  they  are  told,  and  they  are  told  to  get  and 
hold  the  business  by  any  available  means. 

Competitive  business  is  war.  Advertising  is  a  means  by 
which  one  business  competes  against  another  business  in  the 
same  field,  or  against  all  business  for  a  larger  share  of  the  con- 
sumer's dollar.  The  World  War  lasted  four  years.  The  de- 
pression has  lasted  four  years.  You  would  expect  that  adver- 
tising would  become  ethically  worse  under  the  increasing 
stress  of  competition,  and  precisely  that  trend  has  been  clearly 
observable.  But,  as  already  pointed  out,  ethical  value  judg- 
ments are  inapplicable  under  the  circumstances.  Good  adver- 
tising is  advertising  which  promotes  the  sale  of  a  maximum  of 
goods  or  services  at  a  maximum  profit  for  a  minimum  ex- 
pense. Bad  advertising  is  advertising  that  doesn't  sell  or  costs 
too  much. 

Judged  by  these  criteria,  and  they  are  the  only  perma- 
nently operative  criteria,  good  advertising  is  testimonial 
advertising,  mendacious  advertising,  fear-and-emulation  ad- 
vertising, tabloid  balloon -technique  advertising,  effective 
advertising  which  enables  the  advertiser  to  pay  dividends  to 
the  widows  and  orphans  who  have  invested  their  all  in  the 
stocks  of  the  company.  It  is  precisely  this  kind  of  advertis- 
ing that  has  increased  and  flourished  during  the  depression — 
this  kind  and  another  kind,  namely,  price-advertising,  which 
advertising  men,  including  that  ad-man  at  large,  General 
Hugh  S.  Johnson,  view  with  great  alarm.  This  brings  us  to  a 
consideration  of  various  confused  and  conflicting  aspects  of 
the  New  Deal  which  serve  excellently  to  document  the  previ- 
ously set  forth  contentions  of  the  writer  concerning  the 
nature  of  the  advertising  business,  its  systematized  make- 
believe,  and  its  strategic  position  in  the  capitalist  economy. 





The  Ad-Man  on  the  Job 

WHEN  President  Roosevelt  succeeded  to  the  politically  bank- 
rupt Hoover  Administration,  it  was  necessary  not  merely  to 
legislate  a  New  Deal  but  to  sell  this  New  Deal  to  the  Ameri- 
can People.  Tribute  has  already  been  paid  to  the  President's 
extraordinary  persuasiveness  in  his  radio  addresses.  It  was 
natural  that  he  should  choose  as  his  first  lieutenant  a  high- 
powered  sales  executive,  General  Hugh  S.  Johnson,  who  be- 
came Director  of  the  NRA. 

The  theory  of  the  recovery,  as  outlined  in  the  pronounce- 
ments of  the  President,  was  to  raise  prices  and  wages,  eliminate 
cut-throat  price  competition,  and  thereby  restore  the  solvency 
of  the  whole  capitalist  fabric  of  production  and  distribution 
for  profit.  One  of  the  businesses  that  had  to  be  rehabilitated 
was  the  advertising  business. 

Speaking  before  the  convention  of  the  Advertising  Federa- 
tion of  America  held  at  Grand  Rapids  in  June,  1933,  Gen- 
eral Johnson  said  in  part: 

Good  advertising  will  become  more  essential  than  ever.  It  will 
be  in  a  position  to  help  the  business  executive  avoid  those  wasteful 
and  expensive  practices  in  selling  which  so  often  add  needless 
costs  to  needed  products.  Good  advertising  is  opposed  to  senseless 
price  cutting  and  to  unfair  competition.  These  are  two  business 
evils  which  we  hope  to  reduce  under  the  new  plan  of  business 


Constructive  selling  competition  will  be  as  strong  as  ever,  and 
there  will  be  great  need  for  aggressive  sales  and  advertising  efforts. 
The  only  kind  of  competition  that  is  going  to  be  lessened  is  the 
destructive  cut-throat  kind  of  competition  which  harms  the  in- 
dustry and  the  public  as  well.  There  should  be  more  competition 
than  ever  in  presenting  quality  products  to  consumers,  and  in 
selling  those  products.  What  we  are  going  to  need  more  than  ever 
is  energetic,  honest  efforts  to  sell  goods  to  people  who  are  going 
to  use  them.  .  .  . 

If  there  is  one  job  for  advertising  men  and  women  to  carry 
through  at  this  moment,  it  is  to  study  the  implications  and  effects 
of  the  industrial  recovery  act  and  then  to  apply  their  skill  in  assist- 
ing business  to  gain  fully  from  the  planned  results  of  the  law. 

When  General  Johnson  addressed  the  Advertising  Federa- 
tion of  America,  he  was  speaking  to  the  responsible  heads  of 
the  advertising  business,  including  the  owners  and  managers 
of  major  publishing  properties.  Certainly  these  gentlemen  real- 
ized very  clearly  that  if  any  deliberate  deflation  of  advertis- 
ing were  included  in  the  plans  of  the  administration,  it  would 
mean  their  bankruptcy.  General  Johnson  understood  this  as 
well  as  they  did.  He  also  must  have  realized  acutely  that  the 
administration  could  not  afford  to  do  anything  of  the  sort, 
since  it  is  highly  dependent  upon  press  and  radio  support  for 
the  execution  of  its  program — even  for  its  continuance  in 
office.  Hence,  the  wings  of  the  Blue  Eagle  were  spread  be- 
nignly over  one  of  the  most  fantastically  exploitative  and 
non-functional  businesses  in  our  whole  acquisitive  economy. 
With  this  qualification,  of  course:  "Good  advertising  will  be- 
come more  essential  than  ever  .  .  .  Good  advertising  is  op- 
posed to  senseless  price  cutting  and  to  unfair  competition." 

General  Johnson  knew  his  press  and  knew  his  politics.  As 
a  patriotic  savior  of  capitalism  he  was  convinced  that  the 
advertising  business  was  one  egg  that  couldn't  be  broken 
even  to  make  the  omelet  of  the  New  Deal.  But  it  was  impos- 
sible to  keep  the  recovery  program  pure,  even  if  the  President 


had  wanted  to.  Reform  was  bound  to  creep  in.  The  invest- 
ment bankers  got  it  first  in  the  Securities  Act.  And  eventually 
that  advertising  egg  did  get  cracked,  or  at  least  candled.  It 
turned  out  to  be  Grade  "C"  or  worse. 

It  was  Professor  Rexford  J.  Tugwell,  Assistant  Secretary  of 
Agriculture,  who  started  all  the  trouble  by  insisting  that  the 
Recovery  Program  should  include  passage  of  a  New  Pure 
Food  and  Drugs  Bill,  designed  to  protect  the  health  and  the 
pocketbook  of  the  consumer.  At  this  writing  this  bill,  as  re- 
vised by  Senator  Copeland,  under  pressure  from  the  proprie- 
tary medicine,  drug,  food  and  advertising  interests,  is  still  be- 
ing fought  by  these  interests  although  most  of  its  original 
teeth  have  been  pulled.  By  the  time  this  book  is  published  it 
seems  probable  that  the  revised  bill  or  a  substitute  measure 
will  have  been  passed.  Since  the  purpose  of  this  book  is  not  to 
analyze  the  legislative  and  other  developments  incident  to  the 
New  Deal  but  to  describe  the  advertising  business,  considered 
as  an  instrument  of  rule  controlled  and  manipulated  by  the 
American  business  hierarchy,  we  shall  be  content  in  the  next 
chapter  with  showing  how  and  why  the  vitamin  men,  the 
medicine  men  and  especially  the  ad-men  were  successful  in 
beating  the  Tugwell  Bill.  The  story  is  told  in  detail  in  the 
500  page  transcript  of  the  hearings  on  S.  B.  1944,  otherwise 
known  as  the  Tugwell-Copeland  Food  and  Drugs  Bill,  held 
in  Washington,  Dec.  7  and  8,  1933.  It  is  one  of  the  most 
fascinating  and  revealing  documents  the  Government  Print- 
ing Office  has  ever  issued.  Reading  it  is  a  sobering  experience, 
even  though  Moliere  himself  could  scarcely  have  conceived 
the  rich  comedy  of  the  situation.  What  emerges  is  a  cross- 
section  of  the  American  pseudoculture.  Benjamin  Franklin, 
Jay  Cooke,  Henry  Ward  Beecher  and  Elbert  Hubbard  were 
all  there  in  spirit,  represented  by  slightly  burlesqued  re- 
incarnations in  the  bodies  of  statesmen,  lawyer-lobbyists, 
medicine  men  and  ad-men.  Bruce  Barton  didn't  appear  at  the 
hearings,  but  did  his  bit  in  the  field  by  speaking  against  the 


bill.  Dr.  Walter  G.  Campbell,  Chief  of  the  Food  and  Drug 
Administration,  did  an  altogether  magnificent  job  in  explain- 
ing the  need  for  the  bill  so  that  by  the  time  he  had  finished 
the  assembled  lobbyists  didn't  have  a  leg  to  stand  on.  They 
did,  however,  have  plenty  of  money  and  an  effective  influence 
upon  the  daily  and  periodical  press.  In  the  Sept.  18,  1933,  issue 
of  the  Drug  Trade  News  appeared  the  following  frank  state- 
ment of  the  strategy  and  tactics  of  the  United  Manufacturers 
of  Proprietary  Medicines,  as  generalissimoed  by  lawyer-lobby- 
ist Clinton  Robb. 

The  17  Plans 

1.  Increase  the  membership  of  association  at  once  to  present  a 
united  front  in  combating  the  measure. 

2.  Secure  co-operation  of  newspapers  in  spreading  favorable  pub- 
licity, particularly  papers  now  carrying  advertising  for  members  of 
the  association. 

3.  Enlisting  all  manufacturers  and  wholesalers,  including  those 
allied  to  the  trade,  and  inducing  them  to  place  the  facts  before 
their  customers  through  salesmen,  and  in  all  other  possible  ways,  to 
secure  their  co-operative  aid. 

4.  Secure  the  pledge  of  manufacturers,  wholesalers,  advertising 
agencies  and  all  other  interested  affiliates  to  address  letters  to  Sena- 
tors to  secure  their  promise  to  vote  against  the  measure. 

5.  Line   up   with  other   organizations,   such   as   Drug   Institute, 
Proprietary  Association,  National  Association  of  Retail  Druggists 
and  others,  to  make  a  mass  attack  on  bill. 

6.  Appointment  by  the  President   of  a  committee  to  work  in 
conjunction  with  Attorney  Clinton  Robb. 

7.  Co-operation  of  every  member  in  forwarding  to  headquarters 
newspaper  clippings  and  all  available  data  as  basis  for  bulletins  and 
favorable  publicity. 

8.  Co-operation  of  every  member  in  doing  missionary  work  in 
home  districts  to  arouse  public  to  the  dangers  of  the  legislation 


<?.  Carrying  to  the  public  by  every  means  available,  radio,  news- 
paper, mail  and  personal  contact,  the  alarming  fact  that  if  the  bill 
is  adopted,  the  public  will  be  deprived  of  the  right  of  self -diagnosis 
and  self -medication,  and  would  be  compelled  to  secure  a  physician's 
prescription  for  many  simple  needs. 

10.  Arrange  for  conferences  between  Association  Committee  and 
representatives  of  all  other  trade  associations  interested. 

11.  Enlist  the  help   of  carton,   tube,   bottle  and  box  manufac- 

12.  Defeat  use  of  ridicule  by  American  Medical  Association,  pro- 
ponents of  the  measure,  by  replying  with  ridicule. 

13.  Convince  newspapers  of  justness  of  cause  and  educate  public 
to  same  effect. 

14.  Setting  up  publicity  department  for  dissemination  of  infor- 

15.  Enlisting  aid  of  Better  Business  Bureau  in  various  cities. 

1 6.  Direct  and  constant  contact  with  situation  at  Washington 
under  leadership  of  Attorney  Robb. 

17.  Pledge  of  100  per  cent  co-operation  on  part  of  every  mem- 
ber of  the  association  present  for  continued  and  unremitting  activ- 
ity in  every  possible  direction  to  defeat  measure. 

Note  plan  No.  15,  the  mobilizing  of  the  Better  Business 
Bureaus,  which  are  agencies  set  up  by  the  organized  adver- 
tising business  to  expose  and  penalize  dishonest  and  misleading 
advertisers.  We  cannot  stop  here  to  trace  the  history  of  the 
Better  Business  Bureau,  except  to  point  out  that  its  criteria 
of  "Truth  in  Advertising"  are  the  commercial  criteria  al- 
ready discussed  in  an  earlier  chapter;  further,  that  even  these 
criteria  cannot  be  applied  to  the  disciplining  of  important 
advertisers  or  powerful  advertising  agencies.  The  internal 
politics  of  the  advertising  business  is  realpolitik.  The  Better 
Business  Bureau  can  point  with  pride  to  the  scalps  of  numer- 
ous "blue-sky"  stock  promoters  and  cheap  and  nasty  patent 
medicine  racketeers  whom  it  has  put  out  of  business.  But  in 
the  nature  of  the  case  it  cannot  successfully  hunt  bigger  game, 


indeed  it  is  not  designed  for  this  purpose.  It  is  essentially  a 
"Goose  Girl"  organization  which  is  concerned  with  the  main- 
tenance of  reader  confidence,  with  keeping  the  methods  and 
practices  of  the  advertising  profession  within  the  tolerance 
limit  of  an  essentially  exploitative  traffic. 

But  the  Tugwell  Bill  attacked  this  traffic  at  several  vital 
points :  ( i )  the  clause  declaring  a  drug  to  be  misbranded  if  its 
labeling  bears  any  representation,  directly  or  by  ambiguity  or 
inference,  concerning  the  effect  of  such  drug,  which  is  con- 
trary to  the  general  agreement  of  medical  opinion;  (2)  a 
similar  clause  leveled  at  false  and  misleading  advertising, 
which  provided  that  the  advertisement  of  the  drug  or  cosmetic 
be  considered  false  "if  it  is  untrue,  or  by  ambiguity  or  infer- 
ence creates  a  misleading  impression";  (3)  the  clause  au- 
thorizing the  Secretary  of  Agriculture  to  "promulgate  defini- 
tions of  identity  and  standards  of  quality  and  fill  of  con- 
tainer for  any  food." 

But  "ambiguity  and  inference"  is  the  stock-in-trade  of  the 
advertising  copy  writer.  And  as  for  quality  standards,  it  is 
the  recognized  task  of  advertising  to  establish  systematized 
illusions  of  quality  which  will  lift  the  product  above  the  vul- 
gar level  of  price  competition. 

Being  thus  clearly  attacked,  it  was  to  be  expected  that  the 
"reform"  pretensions  of  the  advertising  business  would  pretty 
much  collapse;  that  the  profession  would  make  a  more  or 
less  united  front  with  the  patent  medicine  racketeers,  and 
with  the  drug,  food  and  cosmetic  industries;  that  news- 
papers, magazines  and  radio  stations  would  either  actively 
fight  the  bill  or  fail  to  support  it. 

In  effect  that  is  what  happened,  although  the  more  re- 
spectable advertisers  and  publications  were  considerably  em- 
barrassed by  the  rough  tactics  of  the  patent  medicine  lobby, 
and  certain  partial  cleavages  developed.  At  its  annual  conven- 
tion the  Association  of  National  Advertisers  failed  to  pass 
resolutions  attacking  the  bill,  for  the  reason,  doubtless,  that 


those  advertisers  who  were  affected  slightly  if  at  all  by  its 
provisions  felt  that  "reader  confidence"  would  indeed  be 
somewhat  rehabilitated  if  the  patent  medicine  advertisers,  the 
"Feminine  Hygiene"  advertisers,  etc.,  were  obliged  to  pull 
their  punches  a  little.  Advertising  and  Selling  and  Editor  and 
Publisher  attempted  to  play  fair,  gave  much  space  to  the  pro- 
ponents of  the  bill  and  stoutly  refused  to  "go  along"  with 
the  campaign  of  abuse,  misrepresentation  and  press  coercion 
laid  down  in  Mr.  Robb's  "17  Plans." 

To  meet  this  attack  Professor  Tugwell  and  the  officials  of 
the  Food  and  Drug  Administration  had  to  rely  upon  their 
excellent  and  popular  case,  upon  the  support  of  a  handful  of 
liberal  and  radical  publications,  which  carried  little  or  no 
advertising,  upon  the  far  from  active  or  organized  support 
of  the  medical  profession,  and  upon  the  intermittent  and 
poorly  financed  help  of  a  few  women's  clubs  and  consumer 
organizations.  The  Food  and  Drug  Administration  had  no 
propaganda  budget;  it  did,  however,  manage  to  stage  its 
famous  "Chamber  of  Horrors"  exhibit  at  the  Century  of 
Progress  and  later  route  this  exhibit  to  women's  clubs  and 
other  organizations  which  asked  for  it.  This  pathetically  in- 
adequate attempt  to  fight  back  was  greeted  by  yells  of  rage 
from  the  patent  medicine  lobby  which  was  busy  spending 
money  lavishly  in  the  execution  of  Mr.  Clinton  Robb's  "17 
Plans."  United  States  Senators  began  getting  letters  like  the 
following  from  Mr.  Daniel  A.  Lundy: 

My  dear  Senator:  It  would  seem,  if  Section  6  of  the  Deficiency 
Appropriation  Act,  for  the  fiscal  year  of  1919  and  prior  year,  is 
still  active,  Walter  Campbell  may  well  be  dismissed  and  prosecuted 
for  his  alleged  gross  violations  and  abuse  of  authority,  in  spending 
government  money  without  permission  of  the  Congress  for  radio, 
Paramount  News  Reel,  diversion  of  his  employees'  time  for  selfish 
purposes  and  other  means  to  influence  passage  of  unconstitutional 
Tugwell-Copeland-Sirowich  Food  and  Drug  Bills. 


Walter  Campbell,  it  would  seem,  has  overridden  all  official  pro- 
priety and  wisdom  in  his  alleged  overt  act,  and  no  public  trust  or 
confidence  once  violated,  as  in  this  case,  can  be  restored.  There  seems 
but  one  road  for  Congress — the  road  in  dismissing  the  Chief  of  the 
F&D  Department,  with  penalties,  if  substantiated. 

All  others  who  have  aided  and  abetted  in  these  vicious  and  ir- 
regular proposals,  whether  in  lending  their  names  or  in  actions, 
should  come  under  the  same  discipline. 

Honest  industry  and  a  decent  public  prays  for  a  thorough  and 
speedy  investigation  and  not  a  white-wash  of  an  alleged  crime  as 
despicable  and  deplorable  as  the  sell-out  of  the  "Teapot -Dome." 

Mr.  Lundy,  as  might  be  guessed,  is  a  member  of  the  Board 
of  Managers  of  the  United  Medicine  Manufacturers  Associa- 
tion. He  is  also  connected  with  the  Home  Drug  Company, 
against  which  the  Food  and  Drug  Administration  has  a  case 
pending.  But  the  Senator  didn't  know  this.  Nor  was  the  Food 
and  Drug  Administration  empowered  to  tell  him  unless  he 
specifically  asked;  it  had  no  means  and  no  power  to  expose 
one  of  the  most  brazen  and  vicious  lobbies  that  ever  dis- 
graced Washington.  In  the  Nation  of  February  14  the  writer 
undertook  to  expose  this  lobby  and  the  substance  of  that 
article,  which  was  entered  in  the  record  of  the  second  hearing 
by  Mrs.  Harvey  W.  Wiley. 




THERE  are  no  interested,  profit-motivated  lobbyists  at  Wash- 
ington; only  patriots,  crusaders,  guardians  of  our  most  sacred 
institutions,  saviors  of  humanity.  If  you  doubt  this,  read  the 
transcript  of  the  public  hearings  held  December  7  and  8  in 
Washington  on  the  Tugwell-Copeland  Food  and  Drug  Bill.  If, 
after  that,  you  are  still  cynical,  you  should  read  the  mail  the 
President,  General  Johnson,  and  Postmaster  Farley  received 
from  the  patriotic  medicine  men,  vitamin  men,  and  cosmeti- 
cians whose  sole  concern  appeared  to  be  the  welfare  of  the 
present  Administration  and  the  NRA.  The  names  of  these 
correspondents  cannot  be  divulged,  but  here  are  a  few  samples 
of  their  style: 

With  yourself  and  every  other  loyal  citizen  of  the  United  States 
endeavoring  to  assist  in  the  relief  of  unemployment,  it  would  seem 
that  any  type  of  legislation  that  would  retard  the  recovery  of 
business  would  be  unfortunate  at  this  time.  Therefore,  House  Bill 
6 no  and  the  Copeland  Bill  should  be  given  serious  consideration  as 
their  effect  upon  an  enterprise  with  an  annual  output  of  over 
$2,000,000  would  be  serious  indeed.  .  .  . 

We  have  no  objections  to  regulation  but  .  .  .  here  is  no  ordinary 
regulator  measure  of  the  industry.  Here  is  a  bill  known  as  the 
Tugwell  Bill  .  .  .  that  openly  demands  that  the  Secretary  of  Agri- 
culture in  enforcement  of  regulations  be  final  and  absolute  and 
without  appeal  to  the  courts.  .  .  .  Now  I'm  no  disgruntled  manu- 


facturer  writing  you;  I'm  quite  well  able  to  take  care  of  myself 
and  have  been  doing  it  in  this  business  for  many,  many  years.  .  .  . 

Practically  all  the  worth-while  factors  in  proprietary  cosmetic, 
drug,  food,  and  advertising  industries  are  in  accord  that  these  Tug- 
well  measures  are  impossible  of  amendment  and  should  be  with- 
drawn. .  .  . 

I  have  recently  been  impressed  with  the  danger  to  the  Adminis- 
tration that  is  resulting  from  the  agitation  created  by  what  is  known 
as  the  Tugwell  Bill.  .  .  . 

There  are  four  main  points  to  note  about  this  huge  cor- 
respondence, of  which  only  a  few  typical  examples  have  been 
excerpted:  (i)  that  the  names  of  most  of  the  ready  letter- 
writer  firms  are  already  familiar  through  notices  of  judgment 
issued  by  trie  Food  and  Drug  Administration  at  the  termina- 
tion of  cases  brought  under  the  present  inadequate  law,  in 
Post  Office  fraud  orders  or  in  the  Federal  Trade  Commission 
cease-and-desist  orders;  (2)  that  the  writers  invoke  the  prin- 
ciple of  "recovery"  as  opposed  to  "reform"  in  order  to  defend 
businesses  which  in  most  cases  are  demonstrably  a  danger 
and  a  burden  to  both  the  public  health  and  the  public  pocket- 
book;  (3)  that  they  do  not  hesitate  to  misrepresent  both  the 
nature  and  effects  of  the  bill,  as  for  example  by  asserting  that 
Administration  action  would  not  be  subject  to  court  review 
although  such  review  would  be  easily  available  to  defendants 
under  both  the  original  bill  and  the  present  revised  Copeland 
Bill;  (4)  that  the  writers,  by  implication,  threaten  the  Ad- 
ministration with  a  political  headache  and  political  defeat, 
regardless  of  the  merit  of  the  issues  involved. 

The  nature  and  methods  of  this  lobby  can  best  be  under- 
stood by  examining  the  following  "Who's  Who"  of  the  lead- 
ing lobbyists.  A  complete  list  is  as  impossible,  as  would  be  any 
attempt  to  estimate  the  expenditure,  undoubtedly  huge,  of 
the  proprietary  drug,  food,  and  advertising  lobby. 


Frank  (Cascarets)  Blair.  Mr.  Blair  represents  the  Proprie- 
tary Association,  the  chief  fraternal  order  of  the  patent-medi- 
cine group,  but  even  closer  to  his  heart,  one  suspects,  is  Ster- 
ling Products.  This  is  a  holding  company  for  the  manufac- 
turers of  such  products  as  Fletcher's  Castoria,  Midol,  CaldwelPs 
Syrup  and  Pepsin,  and  Cascarets,  a  chocolate-covered  trade 
phenopthalein  and  cascara  laxative  recently  seized  by  the  Food 
and  Drug  Administration.  The  Proprietary  Association  and 
Mr.  Blair,  plus  the  National  Drug  Conference,  backed  the 
Black  Bill,  written  by  Dr.  James  H.  Beal,  chairman  of  the 
board  of  trustees  of  the  United  States  Pharmacopoeia.  The 
Black-Beal  Bill  would  further  weaken  even  the  present  in- 
adequate law,  make  seizures  practically  impossible,  and  per- 
mit nostrum -makers  to  get  away  with  murder  in  their 
advertising.  In  short,  it  is  a  sheer  fake. 

Hon.  Thomas  B.  (Crazy  Crystals)  Love.  Mr.  Love,  a  former 
Assistant  Secretary  of  the  Treasury,  is  attorney  for  the  Crazy 
Water  Company  of  Mineral  Wells,  Texas,  manufacturers  of 
Crazy  Crystals,  a  prominent  exhibit  last  summer  in  the  Food 
and  Drug  Administration's  well-known  "Chamber  of  Hor- 
rors." At  the  December  hearings  Mr.  Love  said,  "No  harm 
has  ever  resulted,  or  is  likely  to  result,  from  the  misrepre- 
sentation of  the  remedial  or  therapeutic  effect  of  naturally 
produced  mineral  waters,"  which  is  a  brazen  enough  falsifi- 
cation. Two  kinds  of  harm  result  from  such  misrepresenta- 
tion— harm  to  the  health  of  the  victim  who  takes  a  dose  of 
horse  physic  under  the  illusion  that  a  dose  of  salts  is  good  for 
what  ails  him;  harm  to  the  victim's  pocket-book  because  he 
paid  about  five  times  as  much  for  that  dose  of  salts  as  it  was 

H.  M.  (Ovaltine)  Blackett.  Mr.  Blackett  is  president  of 
Blackett-Sample-Hummert,  a  Chicago  advertising  agency. 
His  pet  account  is  Ovaltine,  that  mysterious  "Swiss"  drink 
which  puts  you  to  "sleep  without  drugs"  and  performs  many 
miracles  with  underweight  children,  nursing  mothers,  busy 


workers  and  old  people.  "Food  and  drug  advertising,"  Mr. 
Blackett  writes  to  magazine  and  newspaper  publishers,  "is  dif- 
ferent from  other  classifications.  It  must  actually  sell  the 
product.  It  must  put  up  a  strong  selling  story — strong  enough 
to  actually  move  the  goods  off  the  dealers'  shelves."  More 
briefly,  Mr.  Blackett  believes  it  would  be  impossible  to  sell  a 
"chocolate-flavored,  dried  malt  extract  containing  a  small 
quantity  of  dried  milk  and  egg"  for  what  it  really  is — at 
least  for  a  dollar  a  can. 

William  P.  (Jacob's  Ladder)  Jacobs.  Mr.  Jacobs  is  president 
of  Jacobs'  Religious  List,  which  would  appear  to  represent  the 
alliance  of  the  fundamentalist  business  and  the  proprietary- 
medicine  business.  As  a  publishers*  representative  of  the 
"official  organs  of  the  leading  white  denominations  of  the 
South  and  Southeast,"  he  offers  a  combined  weekly  circulation 
of  300,317  to  the  God-fearing  manufacturers  of  Miller's 
Snake  Oil  (makes  rheumatic  sufferers  jump  out  of  bed  and 
run  back  to  work),  kidney  medicines,  rejuvenators  ("Would 
you  like  to  again  enjoy  life?"),  contraceptives  (presumably 
for  an  equally  holy  purpose) ,  reducing  agents  and  hair-grow- 
ers. Mr.  Jacobs  is  secretary  and  general  manager  of  the  Insti- 
tute of  Medicine  Manufacturers;  he  is,  in  fact,  a  member  of 
the  old  Southern  patent-medicine  aristocracy.  His  father,  J. 
F.  Jacobs,  was  author  of  a  profound  treatise  on  "The  Eco- 
nomic Necessity  and  the  Moral  Validity  of  the  Prepared  Medi- 
cine Business." 

/.  Houston  Goudiss.  Mr.  Goudiss  appears  to  be  the  missing 
link  in  the  menagerie  of  medicine  men,  vitamin  men,  and 
ad-men  who  crowd  the  big  tent  of  the  Washington  lobby  and 
do  Chautauqua  work  in  the  field.  On  November  i6th  last  he 
appeared  before  the  convention  of  the  New  York  State  Fed- 
eration of  Women's  Clubs,  donned  the  mantle  of  the  late  Dr. 
Harvey  W.  Wiley,  and  begged  his  hearers  to  oppose  the  Tug- 
well  Bill.  He  said  in  part: 

So  far  as  I  am  known  to  the  American  public,  I  am  known  as 
a  crusader  for  the  better  health  of  our  people.  .  .  .  Early  in  my 
career  I  came  under  the  benign  influence  of  the  late  Dr.  Harvey  W. 
Wiley.  I  was  privileged  to  support  him  in  his  work  .  .  .  Were  Dr. 
Wiley  alive  today,  I  am  sure  that  he  would  be  standing  here  instead 
of  me.  And  if  I  presume  to  wear  his  mantle,  it  is  because  I  feel 
that  the  great  urgency  of  the  situation  calls  upon  me  to  do  so.  ... 
When  I  was  first  informed  that  our  Congress  was  ready  to  consider 
a  new  pure  food  and  drugs  law  ...  I  was  exultant.  .  .  .  Later 
when  I  read  the  proposed  law  .  .  .  my  heart  fell  with  foreboding. 
I  recognized  it  as  only  another  overzealous  measure  like  our  unhappy 
Eighteenth  Amendment  and  the  Volstead  Act.  .  .  .  The  Tugwell 
Bill  is  fraught  with  danger.  .  .  . 

About  that  Harvey  W.  Wiley  mantle — the  widow  of  Dr. 
Wiley,  in  the  course  of  an  eloquent  plea  for  the  Tugwell  Bill 
at  the  December  hearing,  said:  "I  have  never  heard  Dr.  Wiley 
mention  Mr.  C.  Houston  Goudiss,  and  inquiry  at  the  Depart- 
ment of  Agriculture  discloses  the  fact  that  no  correspondence 
between  Dr.  Wiley  and  Mr.  Goudiss  between  1905  and  1911, 
when  Dr.  Wiley  resigned,  is  on  file." 

And  now  about  Mr.  Goudiss  himself:  He  publishes  the 
Forecast,  a  monthly  magazine  full  of  vitamin  chatter  not  un- 
related to  Mr.  Goudiss's  activities  as  broadcaster  over  Station 
WOR  for  various  and  sundry  food  products.  He  is  author  of 
Eating  Vitamins  and  other  books — also  of  a  signed  advertise- 
ment for  Phillips'  Milk  of  Magnesia.  His  Elmira  speech  was 
promptly  sent  out  as  a  press  release  by  the  Proprietary  Asso- 
ciation, and  he  also  fought  the  Tugwell  Bill  over  the  radio. 

The  organizational  set-up  of  the  drug  men,  the  food  men, 
the  medicine  men,  and  the  ad-men  is  almost  as  complicated 
as  that  of  the  Insull  holding  companies.  At  the  top  sits  the 
High  Council  of  the  Drug  Institute,  an  association  of  asso- 
ciations, formed  originally  to  fight  the  cut-rate  drug  stores. 
The  Proprietary  Association,  the  Institute  of  Medicine  Manu- 
facturers, and  the  United  Medicine  Manufacturers,  all  have 


booths  in  this  big  tent.  The  last-named  organization  came 
right  out  in  the  open,  whooping,  yelling,  and  rattling  the 
wampum  belt.  The  Food  and  Drug  Administration  knows 
them  well,  and  the  public  would  know  them  better  if  this 
department  of  government  were  authorized  by  law  to  publi- 
cize its  files.  Here  are  a  few  of  the  most  eminent  and  vocal 
patriots  and  purity  gospelers: 

President  J.  M.  (Toma  Tablets)  Ewing.  Toma  Tablets  are 
innocuously  labeled,  but  advertised  for  stomach  ulcers,  The 
advertising  clause  of  the  Copeland  Bill  is  what  is  worrying 
Mr.  Ewing. 

Vice  President  I.  R.  (Health  Questions  Answered)  Black- 
burn. Mr.  Clinton  Robb,  the  legal  magician  for  the  U.  M. 
M.  A.,  fixed  up  the  labels  of  the  Blackburn  products,  which 
rejoice  in  a  string  of  notices  of  judgment.  These  products  are 
sold  through  an  advertising  column  headed  "Health  Ques- 
tions Answered."  You  write  to  Dr.  Theodore  Beck,  who  an- 
swers the  questions  in  this  column,  and  the  good  doctor  in- 
forms you  that  one  or  more  of  the  Blackburn  products  is  good 
for  what  ails  you.  It's  as  simple  as  that. 

Vice  President  George  Reese  is  at  present  slightly  handi- 
capped in  selling  venereal-disease  remedies  by  the  seizure  by 
the  Food  and  Drug  Administration  a  month  ago  of  one  of  his 
nostrums — not  the  first  action  of  this  kind,  judging  by  the 
notices  of  judgment  against  this  firm. 

Vice  President  Earl  E.  (Syl-vette)  Runner  can  boast  a  dozen 
or  more  notices  of  judgment  against  his  many  products,  the 
most  prominent  of  which,  Syl-vette,  was  seized  only  a  short 
time  ago.  This  "reducing  agent"  is  a  cocoa-sugar  beverage  that 
keeps  your  stomach  from  feeling  too  empty  while  a  diet  does 
the  slenderizing. 

D.  A.  (Gallstones)  Lundy,  of  the  Board  of  Managers  of  the 
U.  M.  M.  A.,  advertises:  "Gallstones.  Don't  operate.  You  make 
a  bad  condition  worse.  Treat  the  cause  in  a  sensible,  painless, 
inexpensive  way  at  home."  But,  alas,  the  proposed  new  law 


forbids  the  advertising  of  any  drug  for  gallstones,  declaring 
the  disease  to  be  one  for  which  self -medication  is  especially 
dangerous.  Perhaps  this  explains  Mr.  Lundy's  fervid  letters  to 
Senators  demanding  the  dismissal  and  prosecution  of  Chief 
Campbell  of  the  Food  and  Drug  Administration  on  the  ground 
that  the  latter  has  been  improperly  spending  the  Federal  Gov- 
ernment's money  for  propaganda. 

William  M.  (Nue-Ovo)  Krause,  of  the  membership  com- 
mittee of  the  U.  M.  M.  A.  Mr.  Krause's  Research  Laboratories, 
Inc.,  of  Portland,  Oregon,  labeled  Nue-Ovo  as  a  cure  for 
rheumatism  until  1929  when  the  Food  and  Drug  Administra- 
tion seized  the  product  and  forced  a  change  of  the  label. 
Nue-Ovo  is  still  widely  advertised  in  the  West  as  a  cure  for 
rheumatism  and  arthritis. 

Kenneth  (Vogue  Powder)  Muir,  of  the  Board  of  Managers 
of  the  U.  M.  M.  A.  When  Mr.  Muir's  Vogue  Antiseptic  Pow- 
der was  seized  in  1930,  it  was  being  recommended  not  only 
for  genito-urinary  affections  of  men  and  women  but  also  in 
the  treatment  of  diphtheria. 

T.  S.  (Renton's  Hydrocine  Tablets)  Strong,  of  the  Board 
of  Managers  of  the  U.  M.  M.  A.,  is  a  partner  in  Strong,  Cobb 
&  Company  of  Cleveland,  pharmaceutical  chemists  who 
manufacture  products  for  other  concerns.  There  are  notices  of 
judgment  against  venereal-disease  remedies  and  a  contracep- 
tive manufactured  by  them.  This  firm  also  makes  Renton's 
Hydrocine  Tablets,  a  cinchophen  product  sold  for  rheuma- 
tism to  which,  according  to  the  American  Medical  Associa- 
tion, many  deaths  have  been  directly  traced. 

C.  C.  (Kow-Kare)  Parlin.  For  months  now  Mr.  Parlin,  re- 
search director  of  the  Curtis  Publishing  Company,  assumed 
much  of  the  task  of  mobilizing  and  directing  the  hetero- 
geneous but  impassioned  hosts  of  purity  gospelers  that  fought 
the  Tugwell  Bill.  Mr.  Parlin  is  a  statistician,  a  highbrow,  and 
no  end  respectable.  Moreover,  he  represents,  indirectly  at 
least,  the  Ladies9  Home  Journal  and  the  Country  Gentleman. 


In  their  February,  1934,  issues  both  of  these  Curtis  proper- 
ties published  editorials,  written  in  language  strikingly  simi- 
lar to  Mr.  Parlin's  recent  speeches  and  signed  writings,  to  the 
effect  that  in  their  advertising  pages  they  had  struggled  to  be 
pure — well,  pure  enough — and  that  the  new  bill  was  just 
painting  the  lily. 

How  pure  is  pure?  The  February  issue  of  the  Country 
Gentleman  contains  advertisements  of  several  products  which 
would  be  subject  to  prophylactic  treatment  if  an  effective 
law  against  misleading  advertising  were  passed.  The  Feb- 
ruary issue  of  the  Ladies'  Home  Journal,  which  says  that  for 
more  than  a  generation  it  has  "exercised  what  we  consider 
to  be  proper  supervision  over  all  copy  offered  for  our  pages," 
contains  advertisements  of  at  least  eight  products  whose 
claims  would  require  modification  if  the  proposed  bill  became 
law.  The  Ladies9  Home  Journal's  "pure-enough"  list  includes 
Pepsodent,  Fleischmann's  Yeast,  Ovaltine,  Listerine,  Vapex, 
Musterole,  Vicks  Vapo  Rub,  and  Pond's  creams.  In  addition 
to  some  of  the  foregoing,  the  Country  Gentleman  stands  back 
of  advertisements  of  Ipana,  Toxite,  Sergeant's  Dog  Medicines, 
Bag  Balm,  and  Kow-Kare.  Concerning  the  last-named  prod- 
uct, the  fact-minded  veterinary  of  the  Food  and  Drug  Ad- 
ministration comments  as  follows: 

This  used  to  be  sold  as  Kow-Kure,  which  purported  to  be  a 
remedy  for  contagious  abortion,  until  trouble  threatened  with  the 
Pure  Food  and  Drug  Administration.  No  drug  or  combination  of 
drugs  has  any  remedial  value  in  treating  contagious  abortion.  The 
danger  of  these  nostrums  is  that  the  farmer  relies  upon  them. 

There  is  one  obvious  lack  in  the  foregoing  list  of  purity 
gospelers.  It  includes  no  women.  We  therefore  hasten  to  pre- 
sent Gertrude  B.  Lane,  editor  of  the  Woman's  Home  Com- 

In  the  Woman's  Home  Companion's  "index  of  products 


advertised,"  the  statement  is  made  that  "the  appearance  in 
Woman's  Home  Companion  is  a  specific  warranty  of  the 
product  advertised  and  of  the  integrity  of  the  house  spon- 
soring the  advertisement."  Why,  then,  did  Miss  Lane  oppose 
the  bill?  Was  she  alarmed  by  the  fact  that  the  Woman's  Home 
Companion  publishes  as  pure  some  of  the  same  misleading 
advertisements  that  appear  in  the  Ladies'  Home  Journal,  al- 
ready referred  to,  and  that  would  be  embarrassed  by  the 
advertising  provision  of  the  Copeland  Bill?  It  is  a  great  in- 
dustry: women  editors,  publication  statisticians,  ad-men,  vita- 
min men,  medicine  men,  cosmeticians,  all  in  the  same  boat 
and  rowing  for  dear  life  against  a  rising  tide  of  public  opinion 
which  demands  that  this  grotesque,  collusive  parody  of  manu- 
facturing, distributing  and  publishing  services  be  compelled 
to  make  some  sort  of  sense  and  decency  no  matter  how  much 
deflation  of  vested  interests  is  required. 





THE  inevitable  conflict  between  the  idea  of  capitalist  "re- 
form"  and  the  idea  of  capitalist  "recovery"  emerged  most 
sharply  in  the  drive  for  commodity  standards  initiated  by  the 
more  liberal  members  of  Mr.  Roosevelt's  official  family.  These 
liberals — loudly  denounced  as  "Reds"  by  the  patent  medicine, 
drug  and  food  lobby — achieved  a  somewhat  insecure  footing 
in  the  Consumers'  Advisory  Board  of  the  NRA  and  in  the 
Department  of  Agriculture  under  the  leadership  of  Assistant 
Secretary  Tugwell. 

It  seems  clear  that  in  the  beginning  the  Consumers'  Ad- 
visory Board  of  the  NRA  and  the  Consumers'  Counsel  of  the 
AAA  were  conceived  of  as  decorative  ingredients,  designed  to 
float  around  harmlessly  in  the  otherwise  strictly  capitalist 
alphabet  soup  of  the  New  Deal.  Under  no  circumstances  were 
they  supposed  to  challenge  the  rule  of  business  as  administered 
by  the  Industrial  Advisory  Board,  backed  by  the  Trade  Asso- 
ciations and  the  Chambers  of  Commerce.  General  Johnson's 
job  was  to  ride  herd  on  the  unregenerate  forces  of  Big  Busi- 
ness and  induce  them,  by  alternate  threats  and  pleadings,  to 
save  themselves  and  the  country. 

It  was  a  tough  assignment,  and  not  the  least  of  General 
Johnson's  embarrassments  was  the  disposition  of  the  Con- 
sumers' Advisory  Board  and  Professor  Tugwell's  group  in  the 
Department  of  Agriculture  to  clarify  and  fortify  the  soup  of 


the  New  Deal  with  some  stronger  functional  plans  and  pro- 

The  first  blow-off  came  in  the  summer,  when  Professor 
Ogburn,  of  the  University  of  Chicago,  resigned  his  appoint- 
ment to  the  Consumers'  Advisory  Board  on  the  ground  that 
a  price-  and  wage-raising  program,  unregulated  by  a  statisti- 
cal reporting  service,  was  dangerous,  and  that  he  had  neither 
authority  nor  funds  to  establish  such  a  statistical  control. 
This  was  followed  by  mutinous  murmurs  from  the  remaining 
members  of  the  Consumers'  Advisory  Board  to  the  effect  that 
their  carefully  prepared  and  devasting  briefs  in  behalf  of 
the  consumer  frequently  got  no  further  than  General  John- 
son's desk;  further,  that  Charles  Michelson,  sitting  at  the 
publicity  bottle-neck  of  the  NRA,  saw  to  it  that  the  press 
got  only  such  denatured  releases  from  the  Consumers'  Ad- 
visory Board  as  would  not  disturb  the  equanimity  of  the 
dominant  business  interests. 

What  the  Consumers'  Advisory  Board  and  Professor  Tug- 
well's  group  were  trying  to  do,  of  course,  was  to  prevent  the 
American  people,  as  consumers,  from  being  ground  between 
the  lag  of  wages  behind  the  increase  in  prices — this  trend 
being  more  and  more  apparent  as  the  NRA  codes,  with  their 
open  or  concealed  price-fixing  provisions,  went  into  effect. 
The  difficulty  was  that  the  consumer  was  a  somewhat  novel 
and  unsubstantial  entity  in  the  New  Deal  economics.  Like 
Mr.  Throttlebottom,  in  "Of  Thee  I  Sing,"  he  was  the  man 
nobody  knows,  although  it  was  precisely  he  whom  business 
was  theoretically  set  up  to  serve.  If  the  Labor  Advisory  Board 
had  wished  to  do  so,  it  might  well  have  contended  that  labor 
and  the  consumer  are  substantially  identical.  But  it  was  ap- 
parent from  the  beginning  that  the  Labor  Advisory  Board 
represented  not  the  rank  and  file  of  labor,  but  the  American 
Federation  of  Labor  officialdom,  which  was  if  anything  less 
radical  than  Big  Business  itself. 

Hence  the  Consumers'  Advisory  Board  was  without  allies 


at  Washington  and  without  the  support  of  an  organized 
pressure  group  outside  Washington.  One  may  doubt  that  the 
Chairman  of  the  CAB,  Mrs.  Mary  Harriman  Rumsey,  had 
any  notion  of  the  political  dynamite  which  any  serious  at- 
tempt to  discharge  the  ostensible  functions  of  the  board 
would  explode.  But  on  the  board  were  Dr.  Robert  Lynd, 
co-author  of  Middletown  and  author  of  a  penetrating  study 
of  the  economics  of  consumption  contributed  to  Recent  Social 
Trends,  Dr.  Walton  Hamilton,  Yale  economist,  and  author 
of  an  iconoclastic  dissenting  opinion  embodied  in  the  Report 
of  the  Committee  on  the  Costs  of  Medical  Care,  and  Dr. 
James  Warbasse,  chairman  of  the  Board  of  the  Co-operative 
League.  And  the  staff  of  the  CAB,  headed  by  Dexter  M. 
Keezer,  formerly  of  the  Baltimore  Sun,  assayed  a  rather  high 
degree  of  sophistication  both  as  to  economics  and  politics. 
For  months  both  the  board  and  its  staff  were  consistently 
rebuffed  and  slighted  by  General  Johnson,  and  their  press 
releases  were  carefully  censored  by  Publicity  Director  Michel- 
son.  But  they  continued  to  submit  briefs  at  code  hearings,  and 
these  briefs,  although  largely  disregarded,  kept  the  issues  alive. 
And  in  connection  with  the  hearings  on  the  Tugwell-Copeland 
Pure  Food  and  Drug  Bill,  there  came  another  blow-off. 

One  of  the  most  loudly  mouthed  charges  of  the  patent 
medicine  lobby  was  that  the  Tugwell  Bill  was  "anti-NRA", 
in  that  it  would  embarrass  the  activities  of  nostrum  makers, 
and  reduce  the  income  of  newspapers,  magazines  and  broad- 
casters which  sold  advertising  space  and  time  on  the  air  to 
these  nostrum  makers.  In  the  middle  of  the  hearings,  Dr. 
Lynd  was  called  over  from  the  Consumers'  Advisory  Board 
to  answer  this  charge. 

Apparently  it  had  never  occurred  to  the  assembled  medi- 
cine men,  drug  men,  food  men  and  cosmeticians,  that  the 
Consumers'  Advisory  Board  could  be  anything  but  the  cus- 
tomary make-believe  with  which  business-as-usual  cloaks  its 
simple  acquisitive  motivations.  Hence  the  consternation  of 


these  lobbyists  as  Dr.  Lynd  proceeded  deftly  and  suavely  to 
invoke  the  pale  ghost  of  the  ultimate  consumer — to  bring  Mr. 
Throttlebottom  to  life. 

"Do  you  see  what  I  see?'*  said  the  ad-men  to  the  patent 
medicine  men.  And  the  drug  men,  the  cosmeticians,  the  vita- 
min men  of  the  food  industry,  and  the  Fourth  Estate  all 
chimed  in  on  a  chorus  of  denunciation  that  became  more 
and  more  hysterical  as  the  hearings  proceeded. 

They  saw  that  the  drive  of  the  Consumers'  Advisory  Board 
of  the  NRA  to  get  consumer  representation  on  the  Code 
Authorities  and  quality  standards  inserted  in  the  codes,  the 
effort  of  the  Consumers'  Counsel  of  the  AAA  (headed  by 
Dr.  Fred  C.  Howe)  to  insert  quality  standards  in  the  food 
processing  and  other  agreements  which  it  was  then  nego- 
tiating, and  the  controls  and  penalties  embodied  in  the  Tug- 
well  Bill,  especially  the  quality  standards  provisions,  were  all 
co-ordinate  elements  in  the  attempt  of  the  President's  left- 
wing  advisers  to  do  right  by  Mr.  Throttlebottom,  Mrs. 
Throttlebottom  and  the  children. 

From  the  point  of  view  of  business-as-usual,  this  senti- 
mentalism  about  the  consumer  is  the  sin  against  the  holy 
ghost,  nothing  less.  Business,  especially  the  interlocked  drug, 
cosmetic,  food  and  advertising  businesses,  is  organized  to  do 
Mr.  Throttlebottom  right,  and  the  difference  is  more  than  a 
matter  of  phrasing. 

Amidst  audible  grinding  of  teeth  by  the  assembled  ad-men, 
Dr.  Lynd  argued  from  the  premises  of  "quality  merchandise," 
"service"  and  "truth  in  advertising"  to  which  Printers'  Ink 
and  other  organs  of  the  advertising  business  have  long  pro- 
claimed allegiance.  Today,  he  pointed  out,  in  view  of  the  elab- 
orate fabrication  of  commodities,  the  widespread  use  of 
synthetic  materials  and  current  packaging  processes,  fair 
competition,  the  avowed  objective  of  the  NRA,  must  include 
both  quality  competition  and  price  competition.  For  example, 
the  AAA  had  found  that  the  milk  agreements,  in  order  to 


quote  price  at  all,  had  also  to  quote  butter  fat.  In  nearly 
every  line  of  merchandizing,  a  similar  need  exists  for  quality 
standards  on  which  to  base  price  competition.  In  fact,  some 
of  the  producers  and  growers,  such  as  the  citrus  fruit,  rice 
millers,  and  cling-peach  canners,  had  actually  asked  for  qual- 
ity grades  in  the  AAA  agreements. 

The  object  of  the  NRA,  continued  Dr.  Lynd,  is  to  increase 
net  buying  power,  which  means  that  it  must  not  only  in- 
crease wages  but  stop  losses  through  substandard  buying.  Both 
government  and  industry  avoid  such  losses  by  buying  on 
specification.  Should  not  consumers — the  30,000,000  families 
who  in  1929  spent  60  per  cent  of  the  national  income  over 
retail  counters — know  what  they  are  buying?  Under  the  New 
Deal,  labor,  the  consumer  and  government  are  recognized  as 
co-partners  in  American  industry.  The  proposed  Food  and 
Drug  Bill,  like  the  demand  for  quality  standards  in  the  re- 
covery codes,  represents  a  simple  and  necessary  aid  to  the 
isolated  consumer  in  his  difficult  and  largely  helpless  effort 
to  compete  on  an  equal  footing  with  the  massed  resources 
of  industry. 

Note  how  carefully  Dr.  Lynd  kept  within  the  theoretical 
zone  of  agreement.  None  the  less  the  ad-men  and  their  allies 
lost  no  time  in  putting  him  on  the  spot.  The  December  I4th 
issue  of  Printers'  Ink.  headlined  a  mangled  version  of  his  state- 
ment: "Opposes  NRA,  SAYS  Lynd",  and  in  the  Dec.  2ist 
issue  Mr.  Roy  Dickinson,  president  of  Printers'  Ink,  declared: 

...  it  is  my  firm  belief  that  Professor  Lynd's  plans  in  the  Con- 
sumers' Advisory  Board,  in  connection  with  the  Consumers'  Board 
of  the  AAA,  are  a  definite  threat  to  the  success  of  the  whole  NRA 
program.  His  scheme  of  attempting  at  this  time  to  change  the  whole 
system  of  distribution  of  trade-marked,  advertised  merchandise,  is  a 
distinct  menace  to  the  whole  industrial  machine  out  of  which  wages, 
profits  and  government  taxes  must  come.  Both  President  Roosevelt 
and  General  Johnson  have  publicly  expressed  themselves  that  in- 


creased  advertising  of  quality  branded  merchandise  is  an  integral 
and  essential  part  of  the  whole  recovery  program.  Professor  Lynd 
.  .  .  would  attack  over  a  wide  front  the  whole  system  on  which 
not  only  advertising  but  profits  depend.  Which  viewpoint  is  truly 
representative  of  the  Administration  attitude?  It  is  time  that  adver- 
tisers, publishers  and  all  other  industries  dependent  on  advertising 
were  told  what  they  may  expect,  and  get  ready  to  fight  for  their 
existence  if  the  Lynd  viewpoint  is  representative. 

One  gathers  from  this  that  Mr.  Throttlebottom  just 
mustn't  know  too  much,  and  that  any  attempt  to  inform 
him  must  be  scotched  before  it  starts.  So  Mr.  Dickinson 
called  out  the  advertising  mob,  and  with  similar  warning 
tocsins,  the  medicine  men  called  out  their  macabre  guerrillas. 
The  impression  one  gains  from  reading  the  trade  press  during 
this  period  is  much  like  that  made  by  the  final  reel  of  a 
gangster  melodrama,  in  which  the  good-bad  gangsters  draw 
their  rods  and  "blast  their  way  out."  This  ferocity  becomes 
understandable  when  we  add  up  what  was  at  stake. 

It  has  been  roughly  estimated  that  about  $350,000,000  a 
year  was  at  stake  for  the  advertising  business  alone.  This 
money  is  paid  by  advertisers,  chiefly  through  advertising 
agencies  which  collect  commissions,  to  newspaper  and  maga- 
zine publishers,  broadcasters,  car-card  and  direct  by  mail 
companies  for  the  advertising  of  foods,  drugs  and  cosmetics 
theoretically  designed  to  inform  and  instruct  Mr.  Throttle- 
bottom,  eliminate  his  halitosis,  pep  him  up  with  vitamins,  and 
otherwise  make  him  a  better  and  more  popular  fellow. 

But  we  have  already  seen  that  modern  advertising  repre- 
sents not  so  much  a  competitive  selling  of  goods  and  services 
as  a  competitive  manufacture  of  consumption  habits,  the  tech- 
nique of  this  manufacture  being  essentially  a  technique  of 
"creative  psychiatry."  What  was  attacked  by  the  Tugwell 
Bill,  and  even  more,  by  the  attempt  to  embody  quality  stand- 
ards in  the  codes,  was  this  enterprise  in  "creative  psychiatry," 

and  the  largely  irrational  and  un-economic  consumption 
habits  which  advertisers  manufacture  and  capitalize.  In  Recent 
Social  Trends,  Dr.  Lynd  notes  that  the  Maxwell  House  Coffee 
habit  of  the  American  people  was  bought  in  1928  for 
$42,000,000,  and  the  Jell-O  habit  in  1925  for  $35,000,000. 
The  asking  price  for  the  Listerine  habit  and  the  "Crazy 
Crystal"  habit  would  also  doubtless  be  impressive  if  we  knew 

When  the  ad-men,  the  food  men,  and  the  drug  men  howl 
about  the  brain  trust's  attack  on  "the  whole  system  on  which 
not  only  advertising  but  profits  depend,"  that  is  the  system 
they  are  howling  about,  and  the  loudness  of  the  howl  is 
directly  proportioned  to  the  size  of  the  howler's  stake  in  the 
matter.  The  capitalized  claims  of  the  food,  drug  and  cosmetic 
advertisers  upon  the  creatively  psyched  Mr.  Throttlebottom's 
shrinking  dollar  would  probably  run  into  billions  if  accu- 
rately computed.  The  stake  of  the  advertising  business,  other- 
wise known  as  the  newspaper,  magazine  and  broadcasting 
business,  is  smaller,  but  even  more  indispensable.  Newspapers 
and  magazines  derive  about  two  thirds  of  their  income  from 
advertisers,  and  somewhere  between  40  per  cent  and  50  per  cent 
of  this  advertising  income  is  contributed  by  the  food,  drug,  pro- 
prietary medicine  and  cosmetic  advertisers.  Naturally  the  pub- 
lishers and  broadcasters  and  their  allies  want  this  creative 
psyching  of  Mr.  Throttlebottom  to  go  right  on.  Naturally, 
when  they  contemplate  what  would  happen  if  quality  stand- 
ards were  systematically  introduced  into  the  codes,  they  be- 
come hysterical  and  incoherent. 

In  contrast,  the  functionalists  in  Washington  have  been 
almost  excessively  lucid.  In  fact,  one  fears  that  for  all  their 
suavity  and  sweet  reasonableness,  they  have  made  themselves 
all  too  clear.  For  example,  they  sponsored  the  work  of  a  com- 
mittee, headed  by  Dr.  Lynd,  which  has  recommended  the 
establishment  of  a  Consumers'  Standards  Board  under  the 
joint  control  of  the  Consumers'  Advisory  Board  of  the  NRA 


and  the  Consumers'  Counsel  of  the  AAA,  with  a  technical 
director,  and  a  technical  staff  of  commodity  experts  and  an 
interdepartmental  advisory  committee  drawn  from  Federal 
Bureaus.  The  budget  asked  for  provided  $65,000  for  the  first 
year  for  administrative  expenses,  plus  $250,000  for  research 
and  testing.  Dr.  Lynd's  report  quotes  that  devastating  sen- 
tence from  the  impeccable  Hoover's  1922  report  as  Secretary 
of  Commerce: 

The  lack  of  ...  established  grades  and  standards  of  quality  adds 
very  largely  to  the  cost  of  distribution  because  of  the  necessity  of 
buying  and  selling  upon  sample  and  otherwise,  and  because  of  the 
risk  of  fraud  and  misrepresentation  and  consequently  larger  margins 
of  trading. 

Still  keeping  on  the  safe,  sane  and  conservative  territory  of 
economic  and  technical  truisms,  Dr.  Lynd's  report  goes  on 
to  quote  a  1930  report  of  the  Bureau  of  Standards: 

Producers  are  experts  in  their  own  commodity  fields,  but  seldom 
does  the  consumer  get  the  full  benefit  o£  this  knowledge.  Under 
present  conditions  this  group  knowledge  is  suppressed  and  the  tend- 
ency is  all  too  frequent  to  give  the  buyer  merely  what  he  asks  for. 

Moreover,  as  F.  J.  Schlink,  director  of  Consumers'  Research, 
points  out  in  his  "Open  Letter  to  President  Roosevelt,"  "it  is 
impossible  for  a  private  consumer  to  secure  access  to  the  im- 
mensely valuable  findings  of  the  Bureau  of  Standards,  paid 
for  in  every  major  respect  by  general  taxation  of  consumers" 
In  this  letter  Mr.  Schlink  urges  a  Department  of  the  Con- 
sumer, with  Cabinet  representation  and  equal  status  with 
other  Federal  Departments.  But  even  the  less  sweeping  recom- 
mendations of  Dr.  Lynd's  committee  were  calculated  to  freeze 
the  blood  of  the  embattled  ad-men,  drug  men,  cosmeticians, 
vitamin  men,  etc.  According  to  Dr.  Lynd,  the  standards  pro- 
mulgated by  the  Consumers'  Board  would  not  stop  at  the 


point  at  which  the  commercial  standards  of  the  Bureau  of 
Standards  must  now  stop,  i.e.,  at  the  type  of  standards  to 
which  65  per  cent  of  the  industry  is  ready  to  agree,  but 
would  go  on  beyond  this  to  a  thoroughly  satisfactory  set  of 
consumer  grades  and  labels.  Past  experience  has  shown  that 
the  official  promulgation  of  definite  consumer  standards,  even 
though  they  go  beyond  current  practice,  operates  as  a  norm 
to  which  competitive  business  tends  to  approximate. 

It  requires  but  little  imagination  to  see  that  what  is  here 
envisaged  is  a  fundamental  reorganization  of  distribution  in 
the  direction  of  function.  This  would  entail  a  huge  deflation 
of  the  vested  interest  of  advertisers,  and  of  the  advertising 
business,  in  the  exploitation  of  the  American  consumer;  also 
huge  economies  in  both  production  and  distribution. 

Even  poor  old  Throttlebottom  should  be  able  to  see  this  if 
there  were  any  way  of  getting  the  word  to  him.  There  isn't, 
for  the  reason  that  our  instruments  of  social  communication, 
the  daily  and  periodical  press,  the  radio,  are  in  effect  the  adver- 
tising business. 

Anybody  who  wants  to  fight  Mr.  Throttlebottom's  battles 
in  America  had  better  hire  a  hall  or  write  a  book.  Advertising 
is  the  Sacred  and  Contented  Cow  of  American  journalism. 
Any  irresponsible  naturalist  who  attempts  to  lead  that  cow 
into  the  editorial  office  of  any  advertising-sustained  American 
publication  is  greeted  by  hoots  of  derision.  The  writer  knows, 
because  he  has  tried.  Here  are  a  few  typical  hoots: 

This  is  an  admirable  article.  Why  don't  you  hire  a  hall  somewhere 
in  the  Bronx  and  read  it  to  a  lot  of  people? 

This  subject  is  the  Sacred  Cow  herself  and  you  know  it  damned 
well.  Yet  you  seem  to  want  old  Bossie  to  commit  hara-kiri  just 
because  she's  not  a  virgin.  And  what  would  happen  to  the  kiddies 
then,  including  yours  truly?  Sure,  I  know:  man  does  not  live  by 
bread  alone.  There  is  also  butter.  I  see  I've  got  to  teach  you  the  facts 


of  life  all  over  again,  starting  with  the  bees  and  the  flowers.  Mean- 
while, as  one  professor  of  animal  husbandry  to  another,  go  sit  on  a 

Sorry  that  this  article  is  not  adapted  to  our  present  needs.  Have 
you  any  child's  verse? 




Problems  and  Prospects 

"THERE  is  nothing  the  matter  with  advertising,"  Bruce 
Barton  once  protested,  "that  is  not  the  matter  with  business 
in  general." 

Since  advertising  is,  in  the  end,  merely  a  function  of  busi- 
ness management,  Mr.  Barton's  statement  is  true,  broadly 
speaking.  It  might  be  added  that  there  is  nothing  the  matter 
with  business  that  is  not  the  matter  with  the  professions; 
also,  that  there  is  nothing  the  matter  with  business  and  the 
professions  except  that  they  are  obsolete  as  practiced  under 
the  limiting  conditions  of  an  obsolete  capitalist  economy. 
Finally,  there  is  nothing  the  matter  with  the  machine,  with 
industry,  except  that  its  productive  forces  cannot  be  re- 
leased, and  its  dehumanizing  effects  controlled,  under  a  profit 

All  these  qualified  acquittals  must  be  rendered  lest  the 
edge  of  criticism  seems  to  bear  too  sharply  and  too  invidiously 
upon  the  ad-man.  Invidiousness  is,  of  course,  the  bread  of 
life  in  a  competitive  capitalist  society.  It  is  inevitable,  in  a 
fragmented  civilization,  that  the  fragments  should  quarrel. 
It  is  curiously  unsatisfying  for  a  man  to  be  honorable  and 
respectable  in  the  sight  of  God.  No,  his  sense  of  virtue  and 
status  must  be  fortified  by  the  conviction  that  he  is  more 
honorable,  more  respectable  than  other  men. 

I  have  been  greatly  amused,  more  than  once,  by  the  com- 
placent naivetes  of  architects,  engineers,  doctors,  dentists, 


"pure"  scientists,  and  "objective"  social  scientists,  who  were 
quite  prepared  to  agree  with  me  that  advertising  is  a  very 
dirty  business.  They  regarded  me,  apparently,  as  a  reformed 
crook  who  was  prepared,  like  a  mission  convert,  to  testify 
concerning  the  satanic  iniquities  that  I  had  put  behind  me. 
I  have  noticed  that  my  replies  tend  to  chill  the  sympathetic 
interest  of  such  people.  I  say,  first,  that  I  have  not  wholly 
reformed.  Since  I  intend  to  maintain  myself  economically 
in  an  exploitative  economy  while  it  lasts,  I  expect  to  enjoy 
the  luxury  of  integrity  in  strict  moderation.  I  say,  second, 
that  I  am  not  interested  in  pouring  invidious  moral  and 
ethical  comfort  into  their  pots  by  telling  them  how  black  my 
particular  kettle  undoubtedly  is. 

This  invidiousness,  these  differential  judgments,  came  to 
the  surface  with  a  rush  when,  in  the  aftermath  of  the  1929 
stock  market  crash,  the  magazine  Ballyhoo  was  launched. 
This  development,  revealing  as  it  did  the  catastrophic  col- 
lapse of  "reader-confidence"  in  advertising,  deserves  some 
detailed  consideration. 

Whereas  the  stock  in  trade  of  the  ordinary  mass  or  class 
consumer  magazine  is  reader-confidence  in  advertising,  the 
stock  in  trade  of  Ballyhoo  was  reader-disgust  with  advertis- 
ing, and  with  high-pressure  salesmanship  in  general.  Initially 
the  magazine  carried  no  paid  advertisements.  It  directed  its 
slapstick  burlesque  primarily  at  the  absurdities  of  current 
advertising.  By  October,  1931,  its  circulation  had  passed  the 
million  and  a  half  mark  and  a  score  of  imitators  were  flood- 
ing the  news  stands. 

The  editor  of  Ballyhoo,  Mr.  Norman  Anthony,  was  for- 
merly one  of  the  editors  of  Life,  and  had  at  various  times 
vainly  urged  that  humorous  weekly  advertising  medium  to 
bite  the  hand  that  fed  it  by  satirizing  advertising.  The  stock 
market  collapse,  and  the  consequent  reaction  against  super- 
salesmanship  of  all  kinds,  gave  Mr.  Anthony  his  opportunity, 
which  he  seized  in  realistic  commercial  fashion. 


In  style,  Ballyhoo  is  a  kind  of  monthly  Bronx  Cheer,  bred 
out  of  New  Yorker  by  Captain  Billy's  Whizhang.  It  expresses 
the  lowest  common  denominator  of  sterile  "sophistication," 
and  it  is  still  successful,  although  its  circulation,  at  last  re- 
ports, had  dropped  to  approximately  half  of  its  1931  peak. 
And  for  at  least  two  years  it  has  taken  advertising — advertis- 
ing designed  to  sell  goods,  although  adapted  to  the  pattern 
of  Ballyhoo's  burlesque  editorial  formula. 

What  had  apparently  happened  was  this:  the  frantic  ex- 
cesses of  the  ad-man  in  the  production  of  customers  by 
"creative  psychiatry"  had  created  a  new  market  in  which 
Mr.  Anthony  established  a  pioneering  vested  interest.  This 
new  market  consisted  of  a  widespread  popular  demand  to 
have  advertising  burlesqued.  Hence  Ballyhoo  became  what 
might  be  called  an  enterprise  in  tertiary  parasitism.  In  the 
present  period  of  capitalist  decline,  business,  as  Veblen  has 
shown,  parasites  on  the  creative  forces  of  industry.  Adver- 
tising, as  the  writer  has  tried  to  show  in  this  book  (c.f.  the 
chapter  on  "Beauty  and  the  Ad-Man")  parasites  to  a  con- 
siderable degree  on  business.  Ballyhoo,  in  turn,  parasites  on 
the  grotesque,  bloated  body  of  advertising. 

Mr.  Anthony's  enterprise  is,  of  course,  strictly  commercial. 
When,  after  its  initial  success,  the  owners  of  the  magazine 
desired  to  two-time  their  readers  in  the  conventional  manner 
of  publishing-as-usual,  it  is  reported  that  Mr.  Anthony  at 
first  objected.  But  he  was  over-ruled,  and  in  due  course  an 
advertisement  appeared  in  Printers'  Ink  offering  advertising 
space  in  Ballyhoo. 

Without  serious  injustice  the  sales  talk  of  Ballyhoo's  adver- 
tising manager  may  be  paraphrased  as  follows: 

"Advertisers:  Buy  space  in  Ballyhoo.  Of  course  we  bur- 
lesque you  and  shall  continue  to  do  so,  whether  you  buy  space 
in  the  magazine  or  not.  But  these  burlesques  don't  hurt  your 
business.  They  help  it.  True,  the  saps  laugh,  but  they  also 
buy.  Think  of  it!  A  mob  of  a  million  and  a  half  saps,  laugh- 


ing  and  buying!  Here  they  are,  packaged  and  ready  to  deliver. 
How  much  do  you  offer?" 

After  this,  the  hostility  with  which  many  advertisers  and 
many  advertising-supported  publications  had  regarded  Bally- 
hoo began  to  subside.  What  if  Mr.  Anthony's  publication  was, 
in  a  sense,  a  parasitic  enterprise?  He  was  smart.  Ballyhoo  had 
got  away  with  it.  And  forthwith  they  proceeded  to  imitate 

More  and  more,  advertising  began  to  step  out  of  its  part  and 
kid  itself.  The  single  column,  cartoon-illustrated  campaign 
for  Sir  Walter  Raleigh  Smoking  Tobacco  is  an  early  example 
of  this  trend.  The  early  copy,  particularly,  was  an  obvious 
burlesque  of  the  Listerine  halitosis-shame  copy.  Other  adver- 
tisers picked  up  the  idea,  especially  radio  advertisers.  Ed 
Wynn's  kidding  of  Fire  Chief  gasoline  is  an  excellent  example 
of  the  application  of  burlesque  to  the  production  of  customers. 
More  and  more,  it  is  the  fashion  to  make  radio  sales  talk  al- 
legedly more  palatable  by  infecting  the  whole  program  with 
burlesque  advertising  asides. 

Even  the  preview  advertising  in  the  motion  picture  theatres 
is  beginning  to  betray  a  similar  infection.  For  example,  the 
preview  promotion  of  George  White's  Scandals  consisted  of 
a  genuinely  amusing  satire  of  the  hackneyed  extravagances 
of  motion  picture  advertising.  The  Jewish  comedian  who 
played  the  role  of  assistant  impresario  was  sternly  forbidden 
by  Mr.  White  to  use  the  words  "stupendous,"  "gigantic"  and 
"colossal"  in  describing  the  wonders  of  the  new  show.  Driven 
to  desperation  by  this  cruel  stifling  of  commercial  enthu- 
siasm, the  comedian  threatened  to  shoot  himself,  and  did  so. 
His  dying  words  are:  "George  White's  Scandals  is  a  stupen- 
dous, gigantic,  and  colossal  show." 

It  is  contended  by  the  broadcasters,  and  doubtless  also  by 
the  movie  producers,  that  this  burlesque  sales  promotion  takes 
the  curse  out  of  sales  talk,  and  this  is  probably  true  to  a 
degree.  But  the  prevalence  of  the  trend  gives  rise  to  certain 


ominous  suspicions.  In  every  decadent  period,  satire  and 
burlesque  tend  to  become  the  dominant  artistic  forms.  When 
the  burlesque  comedian  mounts  the  pulpit  in  the  Church  of 
Advertising,  it  may  be  legitimately  suspected  that  the  edifice 
is  doomed;  that  it  will  shortly  be  torn  down  or  converted  to 
secular  uses. 

Confirmation  of  this  suspicion  appears  in  the  current  role 
of  the  advertising  trade  press,  indeed  of  the  trade  press  in 
general.  The  writer  has  had  occasion  to  note  that  his  con- 
tributions on  the  subject  of  advertising  were  not  welcomed 
by  consumer  publications  supported  by  advertising.  In  con- 
trast, the  trade  press  has  given  space  to  forthright  radical 
attacks  upon  the  advertising  business  both  by  the  writer  and 
by  other  critics  of  advertising  such  as  Dr.  Robert  Lynd, 
F.  J.  Schlink  and  others. 

This  is  less  surprising  than  it  might  seem  at  first  sight. 
Both  Advertising  and  Selling  and  Printers9  Ink  have  at  first 
times  built  their  circulations  by  crusading  for  "truth  in  ad- 
vertising," the  prohibition  of  bought-and-paid-for  testimo- 
nials, and  other  items  of  pragmatic  advertising  morality.  More- 
over, their  readers  want  to  know  what  the  dastardly  enemies 
of  advertising  are  doing  and  thinking,  and  who  is  in  a  better 
position  to  tell  them  than  these  very  miscreants  themselves? 

This  brings  us  to  a  consideration  of  the  agitation  for  gov- 
ernment grading  of  staple  products,  which  is  the  chief  threat 
by  which  the  advertising  business  is  now  menaced.  It  met 
and  defeated  this  threat  by  deleting  the  standards  clause  from 
the  original  Tugwell  Bill.  But  the  same  threat  popped  up  at 
every  code  hearing  and  in  Dr.  Lynd's  report  urging  the 
establishment  of  a  Consumers'  Standards  Board,  which  was 
followed  by  F.  J.  Schlink's  more  sweeping  demand  for  a 
Department  of  the  Consumer  with  representation  in  the 

To  defeat  the  raid  of  the  New  Deal  reformers  on  the  adver- 
tising business,  the  food,  drug,  cosmetics  and  advertising 


interests  concentrated  in  Washington  a  lobby  reliably  esti- 
mated to  be  from  three  to  four  times  as  big  as  any  other 
Washington  lobby  in  history.  Yet  in  spite  of  this  huge  effort 
the  Copeland  Bill,  after  successive  revisions  by  the  Senate 
Commerce  committee,  emerged  with  a  number  of  its  smaller 
teeth  still  intact,  and  conceivably  it  may  be  passed  by  the 
time  this  book  appears. 

An  ironic  aspect  of  the  matter  was  the  dual  role  played  by 
Senator  Copeland,  as  broadcaster  for  Fleischmann's  Yeast 
and  Nujol,  and  as  sponsor  of  a  bill  which  would,  if  passed, 
have  definitely  limited  the  advertising  activities  of  his  com- 
mercial employers.  On  March  3ist,  Arthur  Kallet,  Secretary 
of  Consumers'  Research,  who,  with  F.  J.  Schlink,  had  ably 
and  energetically  defended  the  consumer  interest  in  Wash- 
ington in  connection  with  the  Tugwell  and  Copeland  Bills, 
the  censorship  and  suppression  of  the  Consumers'  Advisory 
Board,  etc.,  signed  a  circular  letter  urging  the  defeat  of  the 
emasculated  Copeland  Bill  and  the  mobilizing  of  consumer 
support  of  the  Consumers'  Research  Bill  (H.R.  8313). 
Enclosed  was  the  following  statement  by  the  Emergency  Con- 
ference of  Consumer  Organizations. 

"The  Fleischmann  Yeast  Company,  probably  to  an  extent  greater 
than  almost  any  other  national  advertiser,  would  be  affected  ad- 
versely by  the  original  Tugwell  Food  and  Drug  Bill.  This  bill  has 
been  twice  revised  by  Senator  Royal  S.  Copeland,  who  is  employed 
by  the  Fleischmann  Yeast  Company  at  a  high  fee  in  connection 
with  its  weekly  advertising  broadcast. 

"The  original  Tugwell  Bill  was  far  too  weak  to  afford  adequate 
consumer  protection,  and  the  Copeland-revised  Bill  is  so  much 
weaker  from  the  consumer  viewpoint  that  it  should  be  thrown 
out  entirely  and  new  legislation  substituted.  This  cannot  be  ac- 
complished unless  it  is  driven  home  to  the  public  that  there  is 
probably  only  one  man  in  Congress  who  is  and  has  been  employed 
by  manufacturers  of  dubious  drug  products,  and  that  this  person 
has,  for  some  curious  reason,  been  placed  in  charge  of  food  and 


drug  regulatory  legislation.  The  twice  revised  bill  shows  that  Dr. 
Copeland  has  taken  excellent  advantage  of  the  opportunity  thus 
afforded  him  to  emasculate  the  original  bill. 

"The  Tugwell  Bill  was  introduced  by  Dr.  Copeland  at  the  last 
session  of  Congress.  It  was  turned  over  to  a  sub-committee  of  the 
Senate  Interstate  Commerce  Committee  (where  consumer-protec- 
tive legislation  certainly  does  not  belong).  The  sub-committee  con- 
sisted of  Senator  Copeland  as  chairman,  Senator  McNary  (a  fruit 
grower  who  would  also  be  adversely  affected  by  the  bill)  and  Sena- 
tor Hat  tie  Caraway.  This  sub-committee  held  public  hearings  early 
in  December.  During  the  two-day  hearings,  Senators  Copeland  and 
McNary's  antagonism  to  the  best  features  of  the  bill  was  manifest. 
Moreover,  while  representatives  of  the  manufacturers  whose  fraudu- 
lent and  dangerous  activities  were  to  be  controlled  were  given 
every  opportunity  to  attack  the  proposed  bill,  not  a  single  consumer 
was  given  a  hearing  until  within  two  hours  of  the  close  of  the 
session.  Senator  Copeland's  commercial  connections  were  pointed 
out  by  representatives  of  Consumers'  Research,  and  new  hearings 
under  an  impartial  chairman  were  demanded,  but  this  demand  was 
ignored.  It  is  noteworthy  that  at  the  end  of  the  first  day's  session, 
Dr.  Copeland  went  from  the  hearings  to  a  broadcasting  studio  to 
speak  on  behalf  of  Fleischmann's  Yeast. 

"The  Senator  is  now  and  has  in  the  past  been  employed  by  other 
advertisers  who  would  be  adversely  affected  by  the  Tugwell  Bill, 
among  them  the  Sterling  Products  Company,  and  the  makers  of 

"The  broadcasts  for  Fleischmann's  Yeast  were  begun  after  the 
Senator  introduced  the  Tugwell  Bill.  For  a  Senator  to  accept  com- 
pensation from  an  organization  affected  by  pending  legislation  is  a 
violation  of  a  criminal  law,  if  there  is  any  intent  to  affect  the 
legislation.  While  intent  cannot  in  this  case  be  proved,  there  is 
clearly  a  violation  of  the  spirit  of  the  law." 

Supplementing  this  statement,  it  may  be  noted  that  a  busi- 
ness organization  known  as  the  Copeland  Service,  Inc.,  oc- 
cupies the  office  at  250  W.  j/th  Street  adjoining  the  office  of 
Senator  Copeland.  The  president  of  this  organization  is  Mr. 


Ole  Salthe,  who  in  an  interview  with  the  writer  on  April  5th 
undertook  to  describe  the  nature  of  this  business.  A  brief 
advertising  folder  issued  by  Copeland  Service,  Inc.,  offers  the 
following  services: 

Laboratory  Service 

Including  chemical  and  bacteriological  examinations.  Clinical 
and  biological  tests,  particularly  in  relation  to  the  improvement 
of  present  products  or  the  development  of  new  products. 

Radio  Programs  and  Lectures 

Dr.  Royal  S.  Copeland  and  a  staff  of  experienced  radio  speakers 
are  available  to  manufacturers  of  meritorious  food  and  drug  prod- 
ucts. These  speakers  can  talk  authoritatively  on  health,  food,  diet 
and  nutrition,  and  insure  broadcasts  that  are  interesting  and  pro- 
ductive of  sales. 

Labels  and  Printed  Matter 

Wide  experience  in  the  revision  and  preparation  of  labels  and 
printed  matter  concerning  claims  made  for  food  and  drug  products 
so  as  to  conform  to  municipal,  State  and  Federal  Laws. 

Special  Articles 

Relating  to  health,  food,  diet  and  nutrition  written  in  a  popular 
style  for  general  distribution. 

Market  and  Field  Surveys 

Staff  of  experienced  investigators  in  the  food  and  drug  industries 
are  available. 

Dr.  Salthe  was  for  twenty  years  in  the  employ  of  the  New 
York  City  Department  of  Health,  being  director  of  the  di- 
yision  of  foods  and  drugs  when  he  retired  in  1924.  In  1925 
he  became  president  of  Copeland  Service,  Inc.,  with  which 
Royal  S.  Copeland  Jr.  is  also  now  connected.  Dr.  Salthe  de- 
clared that  aside  from  broadcasting  services  for  Fleischmann's 
Yeast  and  Stance,  makers  of  Nujol  and  Cream  of  Nujol, 


Copeland  Service,  Inc.,  had  no  clients.  Did  I  know  of  any 
prospects?  Dr.  Sal  the  earnestly  denied  any  connection  what- 
ever between  the  Senator's  sponsorship  of  the  food  and  drug 
bill  and  his  role  as  a  radio  artist  for  Yeast  and  Nujol.  Cope- 
land  Service,  Inc.,  he  said,  was  trying  to  put  on  a  sustaining 
program  over  N.B.C.  stations  in  which  the  Senator  would 
give  "constructive  educational  talks  on  food  buying,  includ- 
ing the  mentioning  of  worthy  products." 

Consumers  of  foods,  drugs  and  cosmetics  are  invited  to 
decide  what  is  wrong  with  this  picture  and  to  extract  what- 
ever wry  amusement  they  can  from  it. 

Obviously,  neither  the  emasculated  Copeland  Bill,  nor  the 
original  Tugwell  Bill,  nor  even  the  Consumers'  Research  Bill 
represent  a  direct  functional  approach  to  the  economic  and 
social  problems  involved,  because  no  such  approach  is  pos- 
sible within  the  framework  of  the  capitalist  economy.  All 
that  is  possible  is  to  set  up  more  and  more  rigid  legal  and 
administrative  controls  over  the  exploitative  activities  of 
business.  The  Consumers'  Research  Bill  goes  the  limit  in  this 
direction.  Under  its  provisions  manufacturers  of  drugs  and 
cosmetics,  and  of  food  products  potentially  dangerous  to 
health,  would  be  licensed  and  bonded;  only  approved  prod- 
ucts could  be  manufactured;  all  labels  and  advertising  claims 
would  have  to  be  approved  by  a  board  of  experts. 

The  bill  is  well  calculated  to  freeze  the  blood  of  the  ad- 
men, drug  men,  vitamin  men  and  cosmeticians.  Incidentally, 
it  constitutes  an  excellent  reductio  ad  absurdum  of  the  whole 
idea  of  progress  by  reform,  capitalist  planning,  etc.  Obviously, 
it  would  be  much  simpler  to  socialize  pharmacy,  medicine 
and  the  production  and  distribution  of  foods,  and,  also  ob- 
viously, no  such  socialization  could  be  achieved  without  a 
social  revolution. 

The  most  serious  challenge  to  advertisers,  and  to  the  ad- 
vertising business  is,  of  course,  embodied  in  the  agitation  for 
government  grading  conducted  by  the  Consumers'  Advisory 


Board,  the  Consumers'  Counsel  of  the  AAA,  and  from  the 
outside  by  Consumers'  Research.  Here,  too,  the  maximum 
result  to  be  attained  within  the  framework  of  the  capitalist 
economy  would  still  leave  untouched  the  major  contradictions 
of  capitalism.  The  agitation  is  none  the  less  important  and 
fruitful.  The  demand  for  government  grading  of  consumers' 
goods  cannot  be  successfully  argued  against,  even  from  the 
premises  of  competitive  capitalism.  The  promulgation  of 
quality  standards  and  their  control  would  be  necessary  gov- 
ernment functions  in  any  economy.  Significantly,  the  agita- 
tion for  standards  has  brought  to  light  serious  cleavages 
between  the  vested  interests  affected. 

Between  the  manufacturers  and  the  consumer  stand  the 
big  distributors,  the  mail  order  houses,  the  department  stores, 
and  the  chain  stores.  They  tend  increasingly  to  sell  house 
products  rather  than  advertised  brands.  They  represent  the 
more  nearly  efficient  and  functional  agencies  of  distribution 
under  capitalism.  They  are  powerful,  and  they  object  to 
being  squeezed  by  manufacturers,  either  through  high  prices 
or  lowered  standards. 

In  the  course  of  General  Johnson's  field  day  for  critics 
last  March,  Irving  C.  Fox,  secretary  of  the  National  Retail 
Dry  Goods  Association,  in  addition  to  protesting  against 
price  rises,  revealed  that  within  a  week  or  two  after  the  codes 
went  into  effect,  with  provisions  prohibiting  returns  after 
five  days,  the  quality  of  merchandise  became  much  lower 
than  prior  to  the  adoption  of  these  provisions.  Chain  store, 
mail  order  and  department  store  buyers,  and  buyers  for 
municipal,  State  and  Federal  departments,  have  been,  in  all 
probability,  the  most  effective  allies  of  the  Consumers'  Ad- 
visory Board  in  the  fight  against  high  prices  and  lowered 
standards.  Not  that  the  consumer  standards  movement  has 
got  anywhere  to  date.  In  one  of  the  reports  of  the  Consumers' 
Advisory  Board,  Prof.  Robert  Brady  testified  that 


"Of  the  first  220  codes,  which  cover  the  most  important  Amer- 
ican industries,  only  about  70  contain  clauses  having  anything  to 
do  with  standards,  grading  or  labeling.  Most  of  these  clauses  are 
absolutely  worthless  from  the  point  of  view  of  the  consuming 
interests.  In  some  cases  they  are  so  vague  that  they  permit  anything 
and  condone  everything.  In  some  cases  they  are  positively  vicious  in 
that  they  may  be  used  covertly  for  price  fixing  purposes  and  even 
practically  to  compel  the  lowering  of  quality.  In  four  cases,  for 
example,  the  code  authority  is  instructed  to  declare  that  the  giving 
of  guarantees  beyond  a  certain  point  is  an  unfair  trade  practice,, 
whereas  most  of  the  industries  affected  have  long  been  accustomed 
to  give  and  live  up  to  guaranties  far  beyond  these  points." 

For  confirmation  of  this  statement  we  have  only  to  turn 
to  the  Journal  of  Commerce  for  April  13,  1934,  from  which 
the  following  quotation  is  taken: 

"Substitution  of  lower  quality  for  standard  products  continues 
on  a  substantial  scale  and  prevents  consumers  from  realizing  the 
full  import  of  price  increases  that  have  taken  place. 

"Retail  prices  in  many  lines  have  been  arrived  at  after  study 
and  experience  with  mass  buying  habits.  Merchants  conclude, 
therefore,  that  they  must  preserve  these  established  price  levels 
even  at  the  cost  of  sacrificing  quality,  to  maintain  their  physical 
volume  of  sales. 

"This  reasoning  has  been  found  so  practical  and  effective  in  many 
instances  that  manufacturers  of  branded  and  trade-marked  mer- 
chandise have  been  adopting  the  same  policy  in  increasing  numbers, 
it  is  reported.  In  some  cases,  manufacture  of  the  previous  standard 
quality  is  being  given  up  altogether.  In  some  other  instances  goods 
meeting  the  old  specifications  are  being  sold  under  a  new  branded 
name  at  a  higher  price." 


In  the  light  of  all  these  developments,  the  advertising  pro- 
fession is  bound  to  contemplate  its  future  with  alarm  and 


foreboding.  Where  business  in  general  fears  the  still  remote 
prospect  of  social  revolution,  the  advertising  business  faces 
deflation  through  the  inevitable  and  already  well-begun  proc- 
esses of  industrial  cartelization,  of  capitalist  "rationalization," 
which  here,  as  in  Italy,  Germany,  and  in  England  are  bound 
to  enforce  a  lower  standard  of  living  upon  the  masses  of  the 

At  the  last  convention  of  the  Association  of  National  Ad- 
vertisers, Dr.  Walter  B.  Pitkin,  Professor  of  the  School  of 
Journalism  at  Columbia  University,  played  Cassandra  to  the 
assembled  ad-men  by  adding  up  the  costs  of  the  depression 
to  advertising.  "To  begin  with,"  said  Dr.  Pitkin,  "we  are 
left  with  between  60  and  64  million  people  at  or  below  the 
subsistence  level."  These  are  "extra-economic  men"  as  far  as 
the  advertising  business  is  concerned.  The  arts  of  "creative 
psychiatry"  are  wasted  on  them  because  their  buying  power 
is  negligible.  The  average  annual  per  capita  income  is  down 
to  $276.  If  from  this  is  subtracted  an  average  of  $77  for  fixed 
debt  charges,  we  are  left  with  an  average  of  per  capita  ex- 
pendible income  of  $199.  Multiply  this  by  four  and  we  have 
$800  as  the  family  average. 

But  Dr.  Pitkin  had  worse  horrors  than  this  to  reveal.  He 
believes  that  even  if  we  have  recovery  sufficient  to  bring 
about  a  return  of  the  pre-depression  income  levels,  this  re- 
covery will  not  be  accompanied  by  similar  spending.  Not 
only  are  there  between  60  and  64  million  "extra-economic 
Americans — outside  the  money  and  profit  system,"  but  they 
don't  want  to  get  back  into  this  system.  Dr.  Pitkin  cited 
examples  of  middle  class  professional  people,  who,  having 
become  adapted  to  the  shock  of  having  to  live  on  eighteen 
dollars  a  week,  were  content  with  what  they  had;  at  least 
they  were  unashamed,  since  so  many  of  their  friends  were  in 
a  similar  condition.  Dr.  Pitkin  sums  up  the  problem  con- 
fronting the  advertising  profession  as  follows: 


"You  have  got  not  merely  the  problem  of  scheming  to  get  peo- 
ple's income  up,  but  you  have  got  the  problem  of  breaking  down 
what  you  might  call  a  degenerate  type  of  social  prestige,  and  that 
is  a  new  problem  in  advertising  and  selling,  it  is  a  new  problem  in 
merchandising  which  not  one  manufacturer  in  the  United  States 
has  yet  attempted  to  face.*' 

In  passing  it  might  be  noted  that  as  a  result  of  the  "schem- 
ing to  get  people's  income  up"  as  conducted  by  the  indus- 
trialists who  wrote  the  codes,  some  of  whom  were  in  Dr. 
Pitkin's  audience,  the  volume  of  goods  sold  in  February, 
1934,  was  apparently  from  6  to  8  per  cent  less  than  in 
February,  1933. 

The  assembled  advertising  men  fired  questions  at  Dr.  Pit- 
kin.  They  begged  this  earnest  savant  for  some  hope,  for 
some  way  of  "meeting  the  issue."  This  is  what  they  got: 

"We  have  seen  advertising  in  the  last  twenty-five  years  develop 
from  local  commodity  advertising,  next  to  trade  advertising,  then 
institutional  advertising  of  a  whole  domain  of  businesses.  .  .  . 
Those  are  merely  the  first  movements  in  a  direction  toward  which 
we  must  go  a  long  way  further.  You  have  got  to  go  beyond  insti- 
tutional advertising  to  some  new  kind  of  philosophy  of  life  adver- 
tising. I  don't  know  any  better  expression  for  it  than  that,  but 
what  I  mean  is  that  you  have  got  to  sell  an  enormous  number  of 
people  in  the  United  States,  people  of  power,  people  of  intelligence 
as  well  as  the  down-and-outs;  you  have  got  to  sell  them  the  con- 
ception very  clearly  of  the  American  standard  of  living  as  we  used 
to  think  of  it,  and  have  a  return  to  it  with  all  that  it  implies." 

If  this  seems  fantastic  under  the  circumstances,  I  can  only 
point  out  that  among  advertising  men  in  general,  Dr.  Pitkin 
is  regarded  as  a  top-leader  intellectual.  The  ad-men  were  made 
pretty  unhappy  on  this  occasion,  for  they  couldn't  see  how 
they  were  going  to  carry  out  Dr.  Pitkin's  recommendations. 
In  effect,  what  he  said  was:  "What  you  need  is  more  adver- 
tising." And  they  knew  that  before. 


Advertising  men  are  indeed  very  unhappy  these  days,  very 
nervous,  with  a  kind  of  apocalyptic  expectancy.  Often  when 
I  have  lunched  with  an  agency  friend,  a  half  dozen  worried 
copy  writers  and  art  directors  have  accompanied  us.  Inva- 
riably they  want  to  know  when  the  revolution  is  coming,  and 
where  will  they  get  off  if  it  does  come. 

The  other  day  I  encountered  a  very  eminent  advertising 
man  indeed,  emerging  from  an  ex-speakeasy.  He  hailed  me 
jovially  and  put  the  usual  question:  "How's  the  revolution 

"Rather  badly,"  I  replied.  "Although  I  think  you  and  your 
crowd  are  certainly  doing  your  bit." 

"You're  damned  right,"  replied  this  advertising  magnifico. 
"I've  got  a  big  white  horse.  I  call  him  'Comrade.'  And  when 
the  revolution  comes,  I'll  be  right  out  in  front:  'Comrade 

With  a  sudden  chill  I  reflected  that,  given  the  sort  of  mass 
moronism  which  the  advertising  business  has  been  manufac- 
turing for  these  many  years,  something  of  the  sort  might 
conceivably  happen.  What  that  eminent  ad -man  thought  of 
as  "revolution"  was,  of  course,  Fascism.  I  venture  to  pre- 
dict that  when  a  formidable  Fascist  movement  develops  in 
America,  the  ad-men  will  be  right  up  in  front;  that  the 
American  versions  of  Minister  of  Propaganda  and  Enlighten- 
ment Goebels  (the  man  whom  wry-lipped  Germans  have 
Christened  "Wotan's  Mickey  Mouse")  will  be  both  numerous 
and  powerful.